Kids Music: Spare the Rock’s Best Picks for 2008!

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child

The Best of 2008!

For the third straight year, I’ve worked with Stefan from and Amy from to put together a consensus poll of DJs, reviewers, bloggers, and other people who pay a lot of attention to music for kids. The poll is called the Fids & Kamily Awards, and you can see the results at, along with reviews by a bunch of different writers.

Below is our ballot for the best family CDs of 2008:

1. Here Come the 123s – They Might Be Giants ( On their third CD for kids, TMBG continued what made their first two essential listening: a combination of hook-filled music with lyrics that will get parents and kids cracking up. Here Come the 123s is not really intended as an educational CD, and that’s good – instead, it’s pure entertainment.

2. Family Tree – Frances England ( This indie folk release was second place by the closest of margins for me; it might as well have been first. It rocks a bit more than her debut Fascinating Creatures, without giving up the immediacy and playfulness that made that release my favorite of 2006.

3 (tie). Pop Fly – Justin Roberts ( Pop Fly was the overall winner in the Fids & Kamily poll this year, and Justin’s Meltdown came in first two years ago; clearly, he’s doing something that connects with listeners: note-perfect poppy alt-rock for kids, with humor that reaches both kids and their grownups.

3 (tie). Rock All Day, Rock All Night – The Nields ( The sisters Nields win the prize for the cleverest two-disc set idea of late: the first CD (“Rock All Day”) is the higher-energy dance-in-the-living room set of songs, and the second (“Rock All Night”) is for rocking to sleep – lullabies. Both discs are terrific, showcasing the gorgeous interplay of their voices. In a just world, “Who Are You Not To Shine?” would be a massive hit outside the kids’ music arena.

5. Songs With No Character – ScribbleMonster ( ScribbleMonster has released three excellent rocking kids’ records, all featuring character voices and proudly wearing the influence of The Replacements and various Chicago rock brethren. Here, the band drops the voices and delivers a terrific record that really flows. From the Blur-esque “All Ready to Go” to the sweet “The Song of LIFE” to the just plain funny “No Good Can Ever Come Of A Sleepover,” the release pulls off its ambition to be not just tolerable to parents, but actually for them as well as the kids.

6 (tie). Here Comes Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could – Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could ( Brady this year put together his best-yet record of friendly and loose, but never sloppy, kid roots rock. Featuring a number of performers from Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions along with Rymer’s long-standing band, it’s the perfect weekend soundtrack.

6 (tie). Easy – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo ( Easy is the first genuinely great hip hop record for kids, mixing, as the press materials suggest, old school hip hop with elementary school themes. Put together by hip hop veteran Cactus (of Granola Funk Express), SA23 throws hip hop, bluegrass, funk, rock, and more into the pot, and produces a terrific way to introduce your kids to hip hop with a positive message.

6 (tie). Tabby Road – Recess Monkey ( Barely a half-year after the terrific and ambitious Wonderstuff, the prolific Recess Monkey released Tabby Road. This record is their most consistent, with a steady stream of perfect pop melodies over sweet poppy rock.

9 (tie). Snacktime – Barenaked Ladies ( It might come as a surprise that BNL haven’t previously come out with a record for the kids. Happily, they haven’t dumbed down their often-overlooked songwriting skills for their jump into the kids’ music pool. Instead, they’ve retained the infectious poppy tunes, clever lyrics, and occasionally surprising insights. Snacktime is exactly what you’d want a BNL kids’ CD to be like.

9 (tie). Sunny Side Up – Egg ( Like the band Cake? Like your kids? Want to combine those two likes? Egg’s for you. Not that they’re a Cake knock-off; that’s just the easiest reference to make (and one the band makes themselves). There is zero condescension here; it’s just great alt-rock that happens to be for kids. 

Again, be sure to check out the overall results at – there are some great records there that didn’t quite make our ballot!

Bill Childs & Ella

Bill Childs

Bill teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, which airs on Saturday mornings from 7-9 AM on 93.9 The River (101.5 in Brattleboro) and 103.3 Valley Free Radio. He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at


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