Kimya Dawson – [Album]

Saturday, 27 September 2008

As we get deeper into the new millennium and an increasing number of Gen X musicians discover the joys of parenthood, conspicuously the number of really good kids records to come out has increased at a roughly equal ratio. This year alone, albums geared to children that won’t drive their parents insane have appeared from bands including They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies and those have almost deliberately gone out of their way to be really smart for parental gratification (lyrics including lines like “There is only one omniverse” and “Bdellium, it’s a gum-like tree resin, it starts with a silent B” appear on each respective record), the singer most likely, Kimya Dawson, has thrown her hat into thhe ring with Alphabutt; a kids record that isn’t so cerebral, but is no less entertaining for both young and young at heart.

Originally envisioned as an EP, the truncated version of Alphabutt was made available online as early as April this year and although the track list of the hardcopy release is longer, the runtime is still really brief (fifteen tracks in twenty-eight minutes) and the extra tracks don’t derail the tone of the original release.

Unlike some of the other kids albums released this year, Dawson comes by the sweet, brazen, goofy and adorable aesthetics of songs like “Smoothie,” “Bobby-O,” “Seven Hungry Tigers” and the title track naturally (her “grown-up” records have been characterized the same way for years) and the only significant, noticeable difference here is that the lyrics are consistently G-rated and unwaveringly playful. In the context of the (to coin a phrase) rock star-created children’s record genre, Dawson takes a decidedly different tack from her peers as far as her songs not trying to be clever and remaining jovial, goofy, playful short and cute (while the Barenaked Ladies came up with lesser-known or funny sounding words for their alphabet song, for example, a lyrical sample of Alphabutt’s title track includes, “’F’ is for fart, ‘G’ is for gorilla fart, ‘H’ is for huge gorilla fart” and so on) that kids will laugh at and will make adults into fart jokes snicker too. Many of the other songs are simply entertaining fluff (the taunting “Pee-Pee In The Potty”) or rely upon melodies over words to give listeners that warm, fuzzy feeling (“Smoothie” is a great example of that).

From a musical standpoint, the guitars and songwriting are standard-issue Dawson; simple, excited and quickly-paced but, unlike the adolescent output of other acts, the songs are also fairly loose, airy and easy to sing along with as the singer recruits a side band of kids to play, clap, stomp and sing along with her. That approach, along with the simplistic nature of the songs, might be the most engaging thing about Alphabutt; by bringing a bunch of kids in to make the music with her, she implies that younger people love the music and could make this on their own if they chose which, on the most basic levels, makes it totally innocent and childlike. Unlike so many rock stars that have elected to play children’s music for an album’s worth of time as a lark, the most important word in the phrase 'playing music', and hence the most endearing aspect of Alphabutt, is that the emphasis is on “playing.”


Kimya Dawson's homepage
Kimya Dawson's Myspace page

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