Monday, 12 October 2020

Single Review: Don't Leave Recess in Pieces - The Morning Announcements

The Morning Announcements are a collaboration of musicians from Norfolk, Virginia, featuring members of power pop band The Mockers, and guest musicians, Eugene Edwards and Walter Clevenger. Here, their collective experience has been harnessed into a musical fusion of country pop for kids, and the result is this fabulous single "Don't Leave Recess in Pieces".

Now I'm no expert on country music as it's not really my cup of tea, but this particular song helped to change my mind. The energy and vitality of the song is unmistakable, and it is delivered with supreme confidence that resonates throughout the track. Furthermore, it is in essence a health and safety song, with the title succinctly expressing the importance of good behaviour and general well-being.  

The song is uptempo and easy to dance to, beginning with a somewhat jangly intro, before crashing straight into the chorus. The chorus itself is quite anthemic, repeating the words 'don't leave' in a reciprocal pattern, where the words return with gusto through a melting microphone. It is also worth mentioning, that this song doesn't take much time to grow on you, it is incredibly catchy, and grabs your attention immediately. 

The verses are short and sweet, and the lyrics whimsical and instructive, reminding the kids that rules are there for a reason, and it's in your own interest to follow them. Whether that involves heeding the bell when it rings, or making sure you don't leave a mess in the playground. The vocal delivery is almost Dylanesque, but this time with life lessons aimed squarely at the kids.

The instrumentation is refreshingly live, with a wandering melodic bass, punchy drums and a quite exquisite guitar part towards the end. The song finishes as it began with the chorus, but this time repeated by a vocalist eager to sing it again 'one more time'.

There is nothing contrived about this song, it is live and authentic, and despite its somewhat serious message is also great fun. As a result, it manages to both instruct and entertain, and does so in a non patronising manner. From my experience as a teacher, getting children to return to the classroom after recess is a perennial problem and this song might just provide the solution.

To fully appreciate the song, you should also check out the accompanying video featuring vintage footage of children navigating the school playground with varying degrees of success. All in all great energy, and a great message, maybe I should give country music a closer look, there is certainly a lot out there.

The Morning Announcements - safe and sound.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Single Review: Sweet Summertime - The Gum Drops

The Gum Drops are a duo from New York who formed as a result of a shared love of music and a passion for educating children. Their music is original and interactive, and they are also a pretty formidable live act. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of their latest single "Sweet Summertime" a few weeks ago, and it has been swimming round my head ever since. The song is a truly intoxicating piece of retro pop, arriving just in time for the Australian Summer. 

The arrangement features live instrumentation throughout, with the bass and drums controlling  the rhythm, as the guitar and piano compete for the remaining space. The piano appears to dominate the verses, but the guitar really lets fly during the middle eight, with a truly mesmerising piece of improvisation. The track had a similar effect on me as when I first heard "Waking Up in the Sun" by the Adult Net, where I was similarly impressed by the gentle warmth of the music. 

The vocals are melodic and sweet, and perfectly capture the spirit of summer, with subtle harmonies that further emphasise the chorus. There is something truly endearing about the lyrics, which gently reminisce about magical moments 'chasing waves' in 'sweet summertime'. The music provides a superb soundtrack for the summer, and the lyrics serve as a celebration of youth where 'the days are long' and 'time is on our side'.  

This song however, is not just for the kids, I am sure there are many older listeners out there who may also appreciate a song that stirs memories of summer days, when there was nothing to do and all day to do it. In this sense, the song also presents itself as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, with wistful dreamy vocals evoking cherished memories of golden years. 

Somehow, the band have managed to create a timeless classic, that is as melodic and imaginative a piece of work as anything you will ever hear.  Essentially the song is a celebration of life, and in particular, how good life can be at the beach in "Sweet Summertime". I love this song and play it often, so make sure you check it out, you won't be disappointed.

The Gum Drops - golden years.

Album Track Review: If You Like - Megan Schoenbohm

Megan Schoenbohm is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and teacher from California. She has released two albums to date, and her new album You Are Enough, is an absolute classic. Apart from having a compelling title, the album also features nine superb tracks, of which my particular favourite is the inspirational "If You Like".  The song is succinct, and seemingly sweet, but encompasses a potent message that resonates deeply.

The track begins with a percussive rhythm sequence interspersed by a glockenspiel, which provides an interesting counter melody to the lead vocal. The voice is clear and engaging, and the guitar playing is superbly played throughout. The musical arrangement is not over complex, enabling the melody to really cut through. There is expert musicianship performed throughout, with the bass exploring further melodic possibilities in the space remaining.

The lyrics unfold almost like a to-do list for children, encouraging personal choice regarding what to wear, play or sing. In this sense, the song promotes individual freedom of expression, as long as you do no harm to others. For example, during play, feel free to catch lizards, insects and frogs, but make sure to 'set them free with love'. Or if you decide to have a children's tea party 'make sure you save a cup for me'.  The lyrics culminate in the central idea that 'you can be anything you want' if you 'follow your heart', and whatever you decide on, you will always be loved.

In this complex and uncertain age, such a significant message really needs to be heard. Children should be free to experiment and make mistakes in a nonthreatening environment, and only then will they have the confidence to reach their full potential. How the artist manages to effortlessly explore such a controversial and emotive topic in under two minutes I really have no idea.

Megan Schoenbohm is a unique artist in that she appears delicate and yet robust. The music is gentle and endearing, but also deep and persuasive. Her lyrics explore the dichotomy between freedom and responsibility, where kindness and inclusion are balanced against free will and self expression.  In this song her lyrics are somewhat didactic; but executed with an approach that exudes both charm and flair. Perhaps most importantly, she has managed to explore a complex issue with delicacy and finesse, and given the right circumstances, has the potential to inspire a whole new generation.

Megan Schoenbohm - do anything you wanna do!