[Juniper in the alley next to Amoeba Records]

A few years ago I had to move a friend's minivan out of my driveway, and when I turned the ignition the most awful caterwauling burst from the speakers; I was sure I had stumbled upon a secret U.S. Army test of a powerful acoustic weapons system designed to paralyze and induce vomiting by all exposed to it. Really, it was just some children singing "twinkle, twinkle little star" along with a woman playing acoustic guitar, but it was truly horrifying to my childless ass. I got out of the van as quickly as I could before I started thrashing the stuffing out of the bucket seats. Is this what happens when you have kids? I wondered. You drive around town listening to that crap at maximum volume?

I actually feel pretty lucky to be a parent in these modern times. I feel like it is possible to get through the first years without having to listen to some straw-haired, vest-wearing folksinger sing Stephen Foster songs over and over in order to keep the kids engaged in music. There's a decent enough selection of kids music out there that if you want you can still be a snob about Jack Johnson and They Might Be Giants. The recent CD See You on the Moon that I "reviewed" at blogging baby is one example. Bloodshot Records has put out not just one, but three records for kids with songs performed by its stable of roots rock stars. There's pancake mountain; there are things like the rock-n-romp concerts organized by the likes of music guru mama Paige Maguire; Neal Pollack has turned his blog into a freakin' daddy blog now; there's even a blog devoted solely to cool music for kids, (sm)all ages, run by Clea (and I highly recommend checking it out). Hip parents have never had it so easy.

One thing that I like about Clea's approach is that she doesn't fall into the trap of thinking you need to dumb down music for kids; instead, she scours her music archives for thematically-grouped songs that are accessible to children, the obvious advantage being that you don't just have to tolerate the music your young kids are listening to, but you can actually enjoy it with them.

So in that spirit I've created a mix of songs that you can listen to right now by clicking here (a window will popup and start playing when you click that). I enjoyed so much making a mix for Alan at BIYF a few months back that I totally stole the format from him and created my own flash music playlist, and I hope to bring a new mix of music every week (not just kid's stuff). I was just going to send a CD of these songs to Lucinda (who's working on a similar mix), but then I thought it would be fun to share them with everyone.

So here it is: one hour's worth of real music that your kids should enjoy. Let me know what you (and they) think.


1. Wilco: What's the World Got in Store Jeff Tweedy named his son Spencer. I've always thought that was kind of awesome.

2. Great Lakes Swimmers: See You on the Moon This is the only song in the mix that was written and recorded specifically for kids. Someday Juniper will enjoy the lyrics, I'm sure, but right now she just likes to shake her little tush to it.

3. Vera Ward Hall: Mama's Gonna Buy This is one of Alan Lomax's field recordings, a lullaby sung in real time to a real child.

4. Scout Niblett: New Beat, Part 1

5. Little Wings: Next Time Kyle has played shows at homes for the developmentally disabled and at random surfing beaches north of Santa Cruz. Do you think he'd play a toddler birthday party? That would be so rad. My favorite part of this song is the gavel. It kills me every time.

6. The Boy Least Likely To: Be Gentle With Me The band spent a week looking for a children's glockenspiel for this song, then spent the next three months recording the three minutes and 50 seconds of music.

7. Paul Simon: Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard Fuck you hipsters, I like Paul Simon. I have very fond memories of riding through the the Michigan hinterlands in my dad's 1986 Suburban listening to this song, picturing guys with straws in McDonald's cups making that funny noise, wondering exactly what he and Julio were doing down by the schoolyard that got them national media attention.

8. Beat Happening: Indian Summer

9. Neil Young: Transformer Man My friend was sitting in an empty bar in Athens, Georgia and the bartender put Neil Young's Trans on the stereo. He had never heard anything like it. The record is much maligned, but I have never heard anything quite like it either. I've been told it's Neil Young's vision in 1983 of what all music would be like now. In Neil futuristic vision of our present, apparently music would be very heavy on synths and vocoders, and perhaps sung by robots. Some have speculated that this album was actually an experiment to find technology that would allow Young to communicate with his son Ben, who has severe cerebral palsy and cannot speak. Which is so much more awesome than what that Mr. Holland's opus asshole did for his deaf kid.

10. Kraftwerk: We are the Robots Every time I hear this song, the six-year-old Dutch inside me craps his pants with excitement.

11. The White Stripes: We're Going to be Friends I know this has been Napoleon Dynamited to death, but it's a good song that your kids may not have heard yet.

12. Woody Guthrie: The Car Song

13. Stephen Malkmus: The Hook This is a somewhat realistic song about becoming a pirate.

14. Elf Power: Jane Another story song; this one's about an imaginative girl who dreams about a man named Dan who floats around in a bubble.

15. Of Montreal: The Fun Loving Nun The story of an unconventional nun who turns a lonely room into a happy place, transforms a grumpy look into a smiling face. I always picture that nun on PBS who talks about the renaissance paintings doing the pogo and the watusi.

16. Apples in Stereo: The Rainbow

17. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers: Roadrunner Just tell them it's about the cartoon character.

18. ESG: Dance

19. Johnny Cash: I've Been Everywhere This is another one that has been whored out to movies and television commericials, but it's still awesome to a kid, particularly at the end of a long road trip. And if you're lucky, he says the name of your town.

20. BR5-49: Cherokee Boogie