Reviewed mostly by Bil
Bil and I received Lunch Money's newest album just a few days ago, and I am already in love with it. Lunch Money is, by far, our favorite kids' band. From the day that Bil heard a clip of "A Cookie as Big as My Head" on NPR 2 years ago, we knew we had found what we'd been searching for musically--a kids' band we actually enjoyed.
Their latest album, Spicy Kid, showcases Lunch Money's traditional wit ("S.P.E.L.L") and inventiveness ("What Will You Ever See?") but what is updated is drummer/engineer Jay Barry's lusher instrumentation and mixing ("Gingerbread Man" and "Time Out" sound stunning) and singer Molly Ledford's expanding storytelling personas.
Molly regularly draws musical inspiration from her two vivacious kids, and her lyrics in previous albums have mainly focused on seeing the world through a carefree, precocious child's eyes. The songs now point more directly to Molly's experiences as a parent, reading like excerpts from love letters to her kids (for example: "You were a Basket of Flowers," "Awake," "A Walk in the Rain"). The emotional details paint a universal mural, capturing the yin and yang of our own feelings about our children. As I listened to the lyrics, almost every song evoked such a strong memory with my kids that I felt like Molly had to be singing about my family.
She is able to capture my feelings in a way that leaves me alternately smiling broadly and wiping tears from my cheeks, depending on the song.
Some of the standouts include the following:
In the title track 'Spicy Kid' we get to relive the instant we saw our kid as a complete person, a person independent of our parenting and our genes.
"Watching you trying to cheat at games, in the most creative ways... I'd stop you, but I'm still amazed."
"Time Out" is ironically, over too quickly, it could have lasted several more minutes and I wouldn't have been begging at the stair step to be let out early. My favorite part of this song is that it somehow takes a typically unpleasant aspect of parenting (putting kids in timeout) and puts a positive spin on it.
"A Walk in the Rain"is probably Bil's favorite song. He says: I can't tell if it reminds me more of some timeless bit of pop from the 4AD catalog, or Brian Burton's more recent production work with Norah Jones. To me, it's just beautiful in every sense that a song can be, and sits really well with other stuff in my rotation.
"S.P.E.L.L." is a detailed, hilarious indictment of one of my own foibles-- the other day Charlotte asked me why I felt the need to spell "ice cream" in front of her instead of just saying the word. I pretended it was so Tommy would finish his dinner without freaking out about dessert, and that I would appreciate it if she didn't repeat the word either. Truth is, I honestly forgot that I can't fool Charlotte anymore, that little squirrel understands every word. A brilliant slice of parental vaudeville.
"Translator" is very touching, with a killer opening line. "You ask 'Where is the bathroom?' and they hand you a balloon..." It took me back to when Danny, at age 3, wasn't talking; he had only a handful of words and wasn't able to make simple requests, like asking for a drink of water (Patty and I celebrated on the day he finally told us he was thirsty!).
What's great about the song is that it doesn't get mired in feelings of frustration, but rather validates and assures the misunderstood child, that even though "No one understands you, [...] I DO." The song's parent-figure isn't wearied by the labor, "I'll explain it to them later..." knowing that while "one day you will have great conversations" that "right now I'm the lucky one who listens everyday." I think any parent can relate to this song. All children go through a phase where very few people understand them. For us, though, this song had a deeper meaning. Having a child who struggled to learn language, and who still now at 9 years old, is often misunderstood, this song is a tender reminder of how lucky we are to be Danny's translators. And its message is hopeful, because I agree with Lunch Money: Someday maybe Danny WILL give a speech that wows the entire nation!
Now I'm the one who feels understood.
When I listen to "Basket of Flowers" I flash back to the days I spent in the hospital after having each of my kids. I treasure the memory of the hours I spent quietly cuddling my babies with no other concern in the world, the time when I could focus solely on them and nothing else.
Parents: Lunch Money is a higher form of kids' music, which makes perfect sense, because kids are a higher form of people.
Get this cd. :D
You can listen to Spicy Kid streamed in its entirety here.
For more posts about music, check out the Spin Cycle at Second Blooming.