As a parent of a 3 year old I am in constant need of having a wide array of exciting media experiences on hand to entertain him. The trick is to find things that will captivate him, be educational, can hold up over time, and perhaps most important, not drive his parents crazy. If it can be portable, even better. Over the last 3 years I have chosen or been subjected to numerous videos/TV shows and listened to dozens of music CDs. As you would expect (or know) there is no shortage of content, but the production value and approach vary widely.
The musical team of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, who are They Might Be Giants, produce music for adults that is intelligent, quirky, somewhat punkish and always entertaining. They were childhood friends and have amassed an impressive song catalog over the last two decades. You may know some of their more popular songs; Birdhouse in Your Soul, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and I Palindrome I. If you watch Disney Playhouse you have already been exposed to them through the theme songs for Higgleytown Heros and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as well as the closing song Hot Dog.
They have been furthering their foray in the children’s area for some time, releasing Here Come the A,B,C’s in 2005. It’s a two disc set (one audio CD and one DVD) that combines the John’s voices and music with other first rate musicians, sprinkled with children’s voices. All of it is brought to life using “motion graphs,” computer generated cartoons created by small independent shops across the world. This format is a perfect fit to the sensibility and free-wheeling-style of TMBG. Just this week they released the follow-up CD titled, can you guess? Here Come the 1,2,3’s. This one surpasses the first in my opinion. So smart, so interesting, and my son becomes fully engrossed when it’s playing. The audio CD and DVD combination is such a good idea, as the art is as easily accessible whether you are watching or simply listening in the car.
It’s obvious that they put the same effort and orchestration energy into the songs for kids as they do their rock albums. I find myself listening to the kids songs myself, when I need a quick pick-me-up. Killer tracks are Zeros and High Five.
So if you’re looking for great children’s entertainment, and I know you are, choose They Might Be Giants. They also podcast a weekly family program every Friday. To subscribe as well as learn more go to their page on the Disney site here, or the official TMBG site here. Don’t forget to check out the music for adults. Highly recommended.