I have to confess that, as an adult, music is not the all consuming, life defining, expression of creativity and selfhood that it was for me during my teenage years. I buy one or two CDs a year (yes, I am so old that I still buy CDs rather than purchasing music from iTunes) for myself. I have avoided kid's music as much as possible, even though many bands from my youth have contributed to tribute albums of kid's music or even made their own. The best kid's album I have ever heard and purchased has to Will You Be My Friend?, which plays like 13 excellent, harmonic little audio picture books.
However, seeing as how I still own They Might Be Giants, the duo John Flansburgh and John Linnell's eponymous first album, that I bought in 1986 on cassette tape, of course I have bought all of TMBG's kid music. Fortunately, my three kids are gracious enough to enjoy it, even love it. If you aren't familiar with their music, you might have heard it without realizing it. They provide the music for the Disney show Higglytown Heroes as well as The Mickey Mouse Playhouse. Their first release, NO!, was a wacky mix of songs about everything from crossing the street to the Thomas Edison Museum. Their next two releases were were more unified and pointedly educational, although still completely listenable. Here Come the 123s and Here Come the ABCs both have accompanying DVDs that are totally entertaining for kids and adults. A mix of puppetry and computer animation, the DVD of Here Come the ABCs is sold separately but the DVD is included with Here Come the 123s. Their newest and possibly best release for kids yet, Here Comes Science, also includes an excellent DVD for under $20.
For a taste of their music, you can visit their website and watch a few video clips, or check out "Meet the Elements," below.
TMBG's first foray into the world of picture books, Bed, Bed, Bed, comes with a 4 song CD, with the title song originally appearing on the NO! CD. Artist Marcel Dzama, who's work can be seen at London's Tate Museum, provided the illustrations for this bedtime story. Their latest venture is Kids Go! which includes a DVD created to get kids off the couch and moving. If anyone can get you moving, it's TMGB. However, I have to say, since the dawn of interactive kid's cartoons where the protagonist talks to the audience, encouraging them to talk back and perform movements, I have not noticed my kid audience participating much. My son might answer a question from Dora or Diego now and then, but I have never seen him get the "exercise" that they are encouraging. This said, we have had plenty of dance parties in the kitchen when I popped one of his favorite CDs in the player and cranked it up. Whether this book and movie can make this happen, I don't know. But I do know that, if you have to listen to kid music, TMBG are your go-to band.