In Salon today, Scott Lamb writes about "kindie rock," indy rock for youngsters of single digit ages (and their parents) who can't dig the cheezy kiddie pop found on most modern children's CDs. From Salon:
There may be no clearer sign of how big kids music has become than the long list of artists who, like They Might Be Giants, have surrendered to its allure. Lisa Loeb put out a kids record called "Catch the Moon" in 2003; in March, Devo oversaw a kid-oriented rerelease of their album called "Devo 2.0" with Disney that had teenagers performing all the songs; Stephin Merritt and his band the Gothic Archies are releasing an album of 13 songs based on Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" in October. And even if they're not making full albums, many artists have been making guest appearances as kids performers: Nick Cave and Natalie Merchant show up in duets on the forthcoming Zanes album (Lou Reed appeared on Zanes' "Night Time!" in 2002), Belle and Sebastian have curated an album of children's songs by Franz Ferdinand, the Flaming Lips, Travis and others to be released in the fall, and the two albums of the recent "For the Kids" series have included artists like Billy Bragg and Wilco, Tom Waits, Jason Mraz, Cake and Nada Surf…
Indeed, the appeal of a lot of these new kids songs is that with just a little tweaking, they could be regular adult rock. Take rising star Justin Roberts, whose most recent record, "Meltdown," is clearly targeted to parents as well as their offspring. Roberts makes clever lyrical references to Elvis Costello and Modern English, and his excellent new record includes emo songs like the bittersweet ballad "Sand Castle" — Roberts describes it as "Death Cab for Brian Wilson" — that could almost find their way onto "The OC."
Roberts traces his musical transformation back to the early '90s. "I was playing in this band … in Minneapolis called Pimentos for Gus and my daytime job was as a preschool teacher. I really just started writing songs for kids there because it seemed like the thing to do," he recalls. "Then even after I left the preschool, for some reason I just kept writing kids songs; I had no kids, I had no friends with kids."
So what does the music actually sound like? It ranges from folksy balladry to faux-ska and proto-punk. Roberts' "Meltdown" is all jumpy dance guitars; (Dan) Zanes' new album tends toward roots rock and charming folk tunes; (Laurie) Berkner's perky songs feature jangling guitars and piano that wouldn't be totally out of place on a Sufjan Stevens record. But like most kindie rock, their music has a special quality that somehow transcends the divide between music for children and music for adults.