Sunday, January 4, 2009

More New Years' Count Downs!
The Music We Loved in 2008.

I am no media maven, no pirate busy downloading music all night, and our budget for such things is slim. We are like many folks who have kids, who find their CD collection kind of freezes in time. For us it froze even a bit before kids, due to crazy busy work lives. There were a few musicians I always, always got the new album for no matter what, but I am even behind on those. Still, I love music and good creative work that makes the world a more fun place to be, so in the spirit of 'end of year lists' I thought I would compile my own 'Best of 2008', or our family's greatest hits this year. It will be as lame as we actually are, but well, that's the fun of it. If you want cool lists of hip new artists, go somewhere more Indie on the web!

My categories will be:
1) Best Live Show for Grown Ups
2) Best Live show for the Family
3) Best album to Play when the SwedeGirl isn't in the Car
4)Best Album to Play when the SwedeGirl is in the Car
5) Best Swedish Musician
6) Best Non-Swede on Swede Radio

I am an American in Sweden, and last year I was an American in America, mostly. So this post reflects also reflects that I finally figured how to embed YouTube videos, so ugh, I went a bit crazy here sharing the love. Hopefully it does not making loading the page really slow or something.

(Meanwhile, just thinking of all this reminds me of the one resolution (or dream) I have for 2009- which is to get networked enough, have memory enough, and some system so we can easily have music on the computer, and a decent system to play it down stairs. The fact that I am writing here about how CDs, and not Mp3 players or itunes, are still our primary source of music is starting making me feel like I use 8-tracks or something.)

With out further delay!!!

1) Best Live Show I got to go to with Grown Ups: Ani diFranco March 2008 Tampa Theater
First, I gladly got at least one night out with no kids in before I ended up pregnant this June. The friend I went with is one who I got to know because I helped her have her two babies, I was her midwife. In gratitude she has made it her personal mission to give back to me the gifts she found as she descended on the underworld journey of labor to meet the souls of her kids. This makes for a very deep, and fun, friend to have. We are both longtime Ani fans, and were excited to make it out together for Ani's first stop off in town since she gave birth at home to her daughter. So we got to hear her musician turned mother songs, which seemed appropriate for two mom friends, bonded over births.

(Plus at the show, I saw several old clients, and was in the beer line next to one for a long time. She and her husband clearly were having that type of experience you have when you are 7 years old, and you see your first grade teacher at the store- like Whoa- Ms. H, whatcha doin' here!? Like when you are a kid and you think your teacher inhabits another world, these clients were thinking it was super weird to be at a show buying beer with the midwife that helped them birth their baby. )

Here is "Landing Gear" recorded from that show, which is about the (home) birth of her daughter. A someone currently gestating, I have a hard time not getting weepy at the line "for someone who ain't even here yet, look how much the world loves you....."

I love it when musicians grow with me. Ani was there to sing '32 flavors' and 'Joyful Girl' in my teens and 20's, "Dilate' when I was in midwife school, and now 'Red Letter Year' plays in my car when my daughter allows it...

2)Best Live show for the Family: Waterloo (ABBA the Show) June 2008 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida

In tribute to the SwedeDaddy's cultural heritage, he often played ABBA in the car while driving with our daughter in Florida. He never made pickled fish, or lussekatt buns, or papparkakor, or read Astrid Lindgren stories to her to uphold his cultural traditions- but he did play ABBA. Our girl knows all the words to the songs on "ABBA" gold,and it KILLS me when she starts the song "Thank you for the Music" by singing along in her little voice "I'm nothing special....In fact, I am bit of a bore....."

So for father's day last year, I surprised them both with tickets to see the ABBA cover band "Waterloo" (touring as ABBA: THE SHOW) billed as the "absolutely best ABBA since ABBA!" They do tour with the original band member Benny, at least. Oh.Mi.Gosh. did Swedegirl ever love it. She wanted to stay after the show to meet the "Abba Lady" and we actually did hang out, letting my three year old be an ABBA (cover band) groupie, and she met the original band member and the beautiful blonde singer with her baby at an after party! For weeks, my daughter would set up pretending by saying "you be The-ABBA-Lady and....."

3)Best Album to Play when SwedeGirl is Not in the Car: Ani DiFranco's Red Letter Year. I made the live show, the album had just come out when I moved to Sweden, and it saved me. A favorite, and opens with a great New Years Song, the title track. And "Present/ Infant" is also an amazing song, if you want a new mantra take a tip from her and use "don't forget to have a good time..."

4) Best Albums to Play when SwedeGirl is in the Car: Our Most Played Kids Albums of 2008. So try not to notice how lame I am that I have whole list of the most played kids music of this year, and just a few albums of my own. But, one reason for this is the public libraries in Florida. They have a pretty great selection of kids music, which we borrowed and burned before we left so we would have English language entertainment abroad. Don't worry, I copied them but paid for them several times over in late fees, which is just me doing my part to make sure the library collection keeps growing! Right?

1) Faerie Elaine - Faeries, Dreams, and Other Friends

I still can not believe "Faerie" Elaine Silver has not made it bigger on the kids scene. She is the undiscovered treasure of the Waldorf crowds. She is a time transplanted traveling ministerial from long ago. She makes goddess-y music, with great new thought positive messages, and the sweetest faerie sings ever. This CD is always my daughters very favorite and first choice. The song "A House Full of Faeries" is darling- she tells about going around her house and finding little faeries like "Emily, the keeper of the tinctures and teas" and opening up the freezer to find "Jeremy of the Deep, Deep Freeze". Gentle, magic, and sweet. If you are reading this from Florida, she lives in Arlington Park neighborhood and you can find out where she is playing by looking at her website She needs to be having regular concerts at the Children's Garden there!!!

2) Elizabeth Mitchell- You are my Little Bird Again, I love it when musicians grow with you. I last heard from Elizabeth Mitchell she was making music with her band 'Ida'. Now, she is making beautiful kids music. This is a sweet little CD wegot as a going away present. We love "Liza Jane" as a way to remember far away friends, and the Bob Marley cover of "Three Little Birds" will convince you every little thing really actually will be alright. I love the gentle mother's prodding of the baby (or mother?) to "lady be good, do what you should, and you know it will be alright" when she covers Velvet Underground's "What Goes on in Your Mind", a question every parent has asked! She reframes this classic in a new way, through the eyes of a parent soothing a baby- "I think I am upside down......"

3) The Sippy Cups: Electric Storyland

First off, the album title reminds me of a Butthole Surfers Album called 'Electric Larryland'. This is not quite the Butthole Surfers, but it is as close to Emo for kids as it gets. The album is a funky rock-n-roll change of pace, with totally benign, creative, wacky kids lyrics. There is a fun song that starts with a call from 'Superguy', who smells like patchouli and can balance chakras with a single words (you guessed it, OM), who implores young ones to use their super powers by calling on them to 'USE YOUR WORDS'!!! I personally love the melodic 'Magic Toast' that sounds a bit like Syd Barret, with the line "you are so right mother, this toast has really given me a lift.... you are so right mother, this toast is such a special gift!". The SwedeGirl likes to request the 'Snail Song' off this album, which she refers to as "the rock out song" cause it has a really great guitar break. And like the Elizabeth Mitchell album, this one also has a cover of a Velvet Underground song, but this time it is "Rock-N-Roll". Sippy Cups bring new meaning to the line "when Janie was just about 8 years old there was nothing going on at all" till she turned on the radio station and her life was changed by rock-n -roll. And it was alright. ALRIGHT.

4)Barney Saltzberg: Crazy Hair Day Barney Saltzberg was first known to me as the author of children's books, but this album is a gem. It has him telling the story of Crazy Hair Day, which my daughter just loves. It helped me realize the power of stories for kids to relate to others experiences' of strong emotions- in the case of Crazy Hair Day- of extreme embarrassment followed by a sense of inclusion. The songs I love most on this are "Be with Me" and "Home" which are gentle reminders to parents that there is no where on earth your children want to be, and noone on eart they would rather be with than you. It's a good simple heart felt reminder to be present, couched in some great songs that capture the spirit of childhood. The sock song is quite alot of fun, too. Again, this is one of the most requested albums by the Swedegirl.

5)Raffi: Let's Play

There are so many really cool new kids musicians, that I was not going to include Raffi in this list because he is such the old standby in children's music. I used to play 'Baby Beluga' to the kids I babysat for when I was 13. But this one album is just so great, and shows what a positive force in the world Raffi is- he's a gentle, pro-child voice of peace, that it had to be mentioned. Songs on this album are particularly environmentally oriented. "Raining like Magic'" has beautiful imagery, and thanks to "Jane, Jane" my three year old knows about the work of Jane Goodall with the chimpanzees. When searching for images to include in the blog, I found a beautiful manifesto for Childhood Raffi authored, that can be viewed on YouTube, read by him with Nelson Mandela and Jane Goodall. I'm just saying, Raffi is good guy, and this album is far from the banal children's music you may expect from such a standby old favorite in children's music.

5)Best Swedish Musican (that I've found!): Hello, SafeRide Annika Norlin's band Hello, Saferide is my new favorite. This is in english, but her solo work is in Swedish. It's almost enough to make me want to learn swedish sooner than later. This artist gives me great hope, because when I first arrived in Sweden, every song on the radio sounded like euro pop, or 'The Cure' circa 1980 something. But alas, the swedish modernity in design and the hipness seen in other areas of swedish life does in fact carry over into music. The current release is "More Modern Short Stories" is full of honest lyrical songs. She reminds me of Ani Difranco, who obviously, I love. And of Dar Williams.

This single 'Anna' absolutely stopped me the first time I heard it. As a midwife, I know about all the grief and longing that goes with the loss of a child- be it in abortion, miscarriage, mid pregnancy loss, term loss, or even in just choosing to be childless, or deciding to not have one more.... and always 'wondering what if?'. This song captures the longing (the heartbreak?) I see when I take a health history and bump into that might have been 'Anna.'

In line with her other lyrics that capture deep experiences in women's lives, the song "X, Telling Me about the Loss of Something Dear, at Age 16" details a girl's rather mechanical loss of virginity, and her sense of loss, if more a hope or expectation than of her girlhood....She does what she thinks she ought to, then goes back to work at the mall and sells someone some red shoes. Red Christina Pinkola Estes, like Dorothy, like something scarlet....

I am excited Hello, SafeRide is touring Sweden, and will make to my town before I go into labor. One more show before I am back in New BabyLand.

6) Best Non- Swedish Song on Swedish Radio: Noah and The Whale "5 Years Time"

I have to include this link for the 'Fun, Fun, Fun' song, as the SwedeGirl calls it, because it holds the special place of being the first song we really liked when we got here that we had never heard before. The group is British, Noah and the Whale. They sound a bit like Lambchop at times, and Belle and Sebastian at others. This song captures the love, love , love I have for all the years spent with old friends, who now, in five years time or ten, are just friends on Facebook. So, in five years time, where will we be? I don't know, but it's been fun fun fun.....

And this is just gratuitous YouTube play, as I remember there is more to the world than kids music. This is music about childhood with lots of images that could have come from a dream about my family photo album. It's the "La la la song" by The Bird and The Bee. So I put it here. Cause it is cool. If I had an editor, they would have stopped me.

I promise to stop now.


kismet37 said...

I really loved the Hello, Saferide songs as well as the 5 years song. Great stuff, thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

Johan Z said...

Give her swedish stuff a try as well. This song "Everything that was yours" (transl.) in perticular. Very powerful and moving song about rape.
I love the way she moves from darker songs like that one to up tempo ditties like:
"We´re gonna die at the same time".
Truly, the Queen of swedish music right now.
Sorry Marit, love you too.