Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Album Review: Walla Walla BING - YellowKat

YellowKat are an exciting entertainment company who can boast amongst other achievements, over eight years of live concert experience. Their use of puppets and expertise in musical theatre adds another dimension to their act, enabling them to bring a fascinating and engaging live experience to children everywhere.  They have recently released a new CD Walla Walla Bing, which contains fourteen original songs, three of which featured in the Top Ten of the Australian Songwriting Contest 2016. This album is well worth a listen, as it is packed with well-crafted songs brimming with pop sensibility.

The CD kicks off with the delightful “Uh Oh It’s YellowKat,” which describes the weird and wonderful attributes of YellowKat, who we discover amongst other things, is ‘crazy and zany’. The song is upbeat and energetic, and features some lively piano and dynamic percussion to really get the party started. The song also features both a female and male lead vocal.

Make no mistake, the first time you hear “Ducks In The Garden” you are hooked, it is catchy and direct, which is probably why it will really appeal to children. It has a simple but very memorable melody, which is both gentle and hypnotic. The duck’s name is Jack, who is introduced along with the rest of his friends, including the horse Clive, a pig named Dawn and a chicken called Meg.  The song has a clever way of repeating the names of the animals providing familiarity and an opportunity to sing along, almost like a mini version of  “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”.

Next up is “Favourite Song”, a gentle ballad that cleverly reveals the album title on the chorus. The song again features a piano, alongside what sounds like a clarinet, and some subtle percussion on the verse. The song has a great tune, and lyrics that foster interactivity, as children are encouraged to ‘sing along and tap to the beat.’ The clarity of the vocals ensures that all the lyrics are clearly audible throughout, which is a noticeable strength throughout the CD.

“Jazz Hands and Music Feet” is quite experimental with a whispering vocal introducing the song, and lyrics that inform us that ‘Jazz hands and music feet are bopping out to the beat.’ The keyboards work well with the bass throughout, colouring in the song without overplaying.  Each instrument from bass, to guitar to piano is cleverly introduced as the song progresses from strength to strength.

“Witch In The Washing Machine” bounces along with a real clarity of purpose, and manages to tell a quite novel story. If Roald Dahl actually wrote a song for children, I’m sure it would be similar to this. We discover that the witch, whose name is Bessie, can perform magic as she washes clothes and ‘loves to spin around.’  Clearly she is skilled at this task, as even dried-on spaghetti comes out.

“Fruit Salad” is really quite charming and eccentric, and describes the delights of eating fruit salad, with lyrics that provide a detailed description of the process ranging from ‘munchy crunchy apples, to ‘bendy bananas’. This song features a variety of vocal experimentation like nothing you have ever heard, and like many of the songs, it really sounds like the band had a lot of fun making it.

“This Piggy Went To Market”, boasts a title perhaps inspired by the famous English nursery rhyme. The music certainly has a real nursery rhyme feel, and succeeds in telling a story, where the piggy meets a number of animals including a rabbit who we are informed ‘stole carrots’. The song is divided into two main sections with the first section describing piggy’s decision to visit the market, and the second describing the unfolding events that occur on arrival. The song also incorporates different musical styles and tempos, further emphasising the unique vocal approach on display.

“Penelope’s Song” introduces Penelope to the listener, who we soon discover has a preference for eating foods that begins with the letter P. This is further emphasised in the rather percussive chorus where the vocals chant the letter P to really emphasise the point. The song could be almost described as cute, with the lead vocals adopting a child like style to match the music. The music is gentle, progressing along in almost play school style.

“Under the Mountain” is a beautiful song with a terrific tune, and is my personal favourite. It begins with the sound of the ocean accompanying a gentle keyboard, and a minimal bass. Impressively original, beautifully delivered and really quite captivating, the song was one of the top ten finalists in the Australian Songwriting Contest 2016, and deservedly so.

“The Waiting Song” begins with the sound of a clock, before the listener is informed that ‘we are waiting our turn’, while the clock hands turn’. The song marches along in almost military fashion, as we are reminded of some of the past occasions we may have had to wait.  These memories include a visit to the shop where the singer describes the unfolding events from inside a trolley. This clever use of imagery, and engaging melody provides the children with both a visual and melodic hook to tune in to.

“Little Buzzy Bee” has a nice country feel, a great melody, and a simple but effective arrangement. The song uses verse repetition, and a subtle change of lyric to keep the listener alert. At only one minute and seven seconds the song is the shortest on the album, but makes its point in its own modest way, and succeeds in leaving the listener wanting more.

“Swimming In The Bath” is an action song, which provides copious opportunities for kids to perform a number of actions and have heaps of fun in the process. Here the children are encouraged to act like a crocodile, crawl like a lizard, jump like a kangaroo, and even fly like a kookaburra. This is a song that would no doubt be very popular with music teachers everywhere.

“Dance All Day” is very positive and upbeat, and at times reveals a subtle blues influence. The song unsurprisingly encourages children to dance, and has the music to match the message. It also incorporates a very noticeable change of key towards the end, which ensures the energy of the song is maintained right through to the end.

“Goodnight Lullaby” provides a very fitting way to finish off the CD, beginning with a beautiful musical introduction featuring both piano and bass. The vocal has a gentle quality, and is somewhat wistful and even melancholic at times. The backing vocals have an almost beach boys vibe about them and the additional use of strings adds a lovely texture to the sound.  The song is the perfect wind down, after what has proved to be ‘a lovely afternoon’.

The main strength of this album is its simplicity, and the way in which such simplicity really allows the melodies to cut through. It is also well produced and easy to dance to. The band know exactly what they want to sound like, and the message they want to deliver. Clearly the musicianship on the album is very strong, along with the vocals, which provide both resonance and clarity. The songs are original, cleverly crafted, and have their own unique style, and on this form I expect to be hearing a lot more from YellowKat in the future.

YellowKat: Dance All Day!