Singer songwriter Justin Roberts’ latest full length studio release, Recess is another enjoyable album from the beloved children’s artist. His new album comes less than a year after the release of his most recent album, Lullaby. Lullaby was a departure of sorts for Roberts, who is more known for his indie-pop style songs than the much softer material on that release. That’s not to say it was a bad album by any means; quite the opposite. Rather, it was interesting in its own right because it was such a departure for him. Now having returned to style on this latest release, parents and children that have come to know his more standard indie-pop style songs have twelve more songs to enjoy. And they collectively could not have come at a better time, considering that kids and parents across the country have begun counting down the days to a new school year.
Recess could not have come at a better time, as parents and children across the country have officially begun the countdown of the last month of Summer vacation once again. The album fittingly opens with its title song, which celebrates the one thing about school that any young child loves more than anything. And he does quite the impressive job on the song, too. Somehow, through his interpretation of the song’s lyrics, Roberts is able to put himself into the shoes and mind of a child. He is able to so vividly express the mix of emotions that a child feels, watching the clock and dreaming of being able to get out on the blacktop and play, expending his or her energy. The energy that builds through different spots in the song is spot on. It reflects the energy and anticipation that builds to that magical moment when the recess bell rings. The song’s joyful culmination is just as wonderfully interpreted. Listeners can so easily close their eyes and see in their minds, every single bit of what Mr. Roberts sings both here and throughout the song. It makes for such a wonderful musical movie of the mind so to speak. It’s just part of what parents and children will enjoy on this new release.
The title track to Justin Roberts’ new album is a fun way to open the album. And it’s just one of so many fun songs for the whole family on this album. Roberts does a great job of expressing the joys of childhood throughout this album, not just on its opener. ‘Hopscotch’, ‘Check me out, I’m at the Checkout’, and ‘We got Two’ so expertly capture a child’s joy at the little things in life that adults take for granted every day. For all of the joys of childhood expressed in this song (and others), Roberts does something interesting at one point on the album. He takes listeners into the mind of a dog–believe it or not–in ‘Every Little Step.’ This is one of the highest of high points on this album. Interestingly enough, it’s just as easy here to close one’s eyes and take in the song from the subject’s point of view. One can actually see a young puppy waiting at the door for his young human friend, telling listeners of his happy thoughts of his friend. The dog in question sings happily in this song, “I’m with you every single step of the way.” Along the way he outlines various situations and declares his loyalty to his friend. It’s just a happy, poppy song that again, will have both parents and children smiling and singing along.
For all of the upbeat peppiness that dominates Recess, it isn’t all high energy. That’s not a bad thing. It does sport a pair of more mellow pieces in ‘Looking For Trains’ and the album’s closer, ‘Red Bird.’ The placement of both of these tracks is spot on. ‘Looking for Trains’ comes in halfway through the album, allowing listeners to catch their breath. ‘Red Bird’ closes the album. The string that connects the pair to the rest of the album is that while they are both far mellower than their companions, they still celebrate the simple things that any youth enjoys and that far too many adults take for granted. Roberts reminds audiences in the prior of the joy in the simplicity of listening for the sound of a train off in the distance. One could argue to a point that the train is used here as a central point for an allegory not about trains, but about looking for life’s positives. This could be a stretch. But there is some truth in this statement as he sings, “It seems like you’re always looking for trains.” The album’s closer is written and performed with much the same sincerity and gentility.
‘Red Bird’ is a perfect counterpoint to the album’s high energy opener. It would be interesting to know the story behind this moving work. Roberts sings in the song’s opening verse, “I don’t wanna cry no more/The wolves headed down to my door/I don’t wanna live like I did before/There was you.” This single line paints something of such a bittersweet back story. By contrast, the more calming and happier refrain of “I just wanna cry some more/Watch all these wolves run away from my door/Cause I don’t even know who I was before/There was you” presents a beautifully moving picture of someone that has overcome great pain and found happiness despite that earlier pain within the song. The gentle strains of the strings and piano together make this song such a wonderfully emotional work, as does the picture painted through Roberts’ lyrics. His equally subtle vocal style adds even more joy to the song. The combination of all of these elements is certain to evoke some very powerful emotions in some listeners. It’s such a bold, yet gentle reminder that through all the bad, there is good. And it makes for the perfect way to close out such a wonderful new release from Justin Roberts.
Recess is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online from Justin Roberts’ official website at http://justinroberts.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=13368_61886&pc=6NCD12. Fans can also go to Roberts’ official website and his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/justinrobertsmusic4kids to keep up with all of the latest news, tour information and more from the man himself. He will be touring the Midwest through the first half of August before taking a break and then heading to the West Coast and back up the East Coast in September.
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