Classical Recordings Take Top Honors As 2015’s Top New Children’s Albums

The mainstream and independent music industry have both generated their fair share of impressive records in 2015. This includes both full-length albums and EPs. Of course for all of the success that both realms have shown one would be remiss to ignore the realm of music for the whole family. That realm has seen the release of a number of impressive records, too. Recess Monkey returned again this year with yet another fun new album. And children’s classical label Maestro Classics released a pair of interesting releases, too. New entries from Jazzy Ash, Josh and the Jamtones, and Alex & The Kaleidoscope among others have proven to be just as impressive. Those acts’ albums are all on this year’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums along with five more that have once again gotten honorable mention. Without any further ado here is the Phil’s Picks Best New Children’s Albums.

2015 TOP NEW CHILDREN’S ALBUMS

1. MAESTRO CLASSICS — THE NUTCRACKER
2. MAESTRO CLASSICS — MERRY PRANKS OF MASTER TILL
3. RECESS MONKEY — HOT AIR
4. JOSH AND THE JAMTONES — ROCKSTEADY
5. ROCK ‘N RAINBOW — LET’S BOOGIE
6. CATHY FINK & MARCY MARXER — DANCIN’ IN THE KITCHEN: SONGS FOR ALL FAMILIES

7. ALASTAIR MOOK AND FRIENDS — ALL KINDS OF YOU AND ME
8. JAZZY ASH — BON VOYAGE
9. THE BAZILLIONS — ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
10. FUTURE HITS — TODAY IS FOREVER
11. THE POP UPS — GREAT PRETENDERS CLUB
12. ROCKNOCEROS — PLYMOUTH ROCKERS
13. ALEX & THE KALEIDOSCOPE — GET ON BOARD
14. LUCKY DIAZ AND THE FAMILY JAM BAND — ADELANTE
15. MIL’S TRILS — NOW THAT WE’RE FRIENDS

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Blanchard’s Debut LP Is A Solid First Effort

Courtesy: Cumbancha Music Publishing

Courtesy: Vis-a-vis

Francesca Blanchard is not the most well-known name in the music industry today. But the French-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music industry. She has been writing music ever since her childhood. And in 2011, she released her very first recording, Songs on an Ovation. The record, a six-song EP, was released via Emote Records. Now a little more than four years after its release Blanchard will finally release her debut full-length studio recording for American audiences. The aptly titled Deux Visions will be released Friday, October 2nd via Vis-a-vis. Deux Visions is such an aptly titled record because Blanchard presents both her French and American roots throughout the course of the album’s twelve total songs. She sings half of those songs in English and the other half in French. In doing so she is able to reach not just her French-speaking listeners but her American listeners, too. This is just one element of the album worth noting. In direct correlation to her dual vocal approach, the lyrics to each of her songs have been printed in the album’s companion booklet side by side in both French and English, too. Not only does this mean that she will reach both audiences even more but that she will also guarantee keeping her listeners engaged. She and her label made sure to not leave out anyone. And being that this record is her debut full-length recording that is an especially good choice. Having noted her dual approach to her debut album, the next logical element to examine in this record is the combined musical and lyrical content of her album in whole. That material in question is notable because it stands out from so much music from her more well-known pop counterparts. It stands out because it switches seemingly from song to song. And even the lyrical content of each of the album’s songs boasts its own depth in comparison to that of other female artists. The combination of that standout musical and lyrical content set alongside the previously noted albums leads Deux Visions to prove itself one more of the year’s best new world music albums.

The official release date of Francesca Blanchard’s debut album Deux Visions is still roughly five weeks out at the time of this review. Even being so far out from its release it can still be said of her new album that it is one of the best of this year’s new world music field. It proves this in more ways than can be noted in one sitting. So this critic will focus on just a few ways in which it proves itself so impressive beginning with her performance of the album’s twelve total songs. Blanchard, who is French by birth but currently lives in Vermont, splits the album’s tracks right down the middle, singing half of the songs in French and half in English. She is not the only bi-lingual artist to use this approach. Colombian pop star Shakira uses a similar approach as do the men of Los Lonely Boys, kindie rock act Future Hits and others. While the approach that she takes is not exactly new, it does not make it any less important. That is because as with the albums released by the previous artists and acts, it shows an attention to detail so as to not alienate one listener base or another. What’s more, some of the aforementioned acts (and others) don’t always balance the linguistic approach on their albums as much as she has here. In many cases, the foreign language performances seem to take precedence over the English-language tracks. Though, it can be said that Future Hits come close as they go through their album Today is Forever first in Spanish and then repeat each song in English. While Blanchard’s approach isn’t quite at that level, the equal balance of French and English performances rather than a random slathering of French and English presentations ensures that audiences of both English and French backgrounds will be able to equally enjoy her new album so to speak. That is a solid foundation for her debut record. And it is just one level of that foundation, too. The presentation of the album’s songs both in English and French within the album’s booklet strengthens that foundation even more.

Francesca Blanchard’s balanced, dual-language approach on her debut album Deux Visions makes for a solid foundation for this first effort. It is not the only element that allows this album to sit so strongly, either. Each of the album’s songs are printed both in English and French in the album’s companion booklet. This means for French audiences whose abilities with English might not be so strong will still be able to enjoy it just as much as those English-speaking listeners whose abilities with French are just as weak. Some might read this and ask why this would be so important. The answer here is simple. It is important because especially today, not every group, band, or act includes lyrics with their albums. That can easily lead to misinterpretation of lyrics in many cases. In the case of a foreign language record, not having lyrics greatly diminishes the interest that those not familiar with the album’s linguistic approach might have in the album. What’s more even those albums that do include lyrics are not always guaranteed to include translated lyrics for those not fluent with the featured artist’s/group’s/band’s language. It does not necessarily have to mean English, either. It can be any language. In the case of this album it just so happens that Blanchard has seen to it along with Vis-a-vis that the songs’ lyrics were printed in both French and English. This means that those English audiences not familiar the French language will be able to understand the lyrics to each song just as much as French audiences not familiar with English. What this means is that Blanchard’s French and English audiences alike will be able to take in her debut album in whole without worrying about missing out on any of it. Simply put, everybody is at the same level in listening to this record as a result. This takes the foundation established by Blanchard in her performances that much stronger. It is not the last element of the album’s success, either. The overall musical and lyrical content of Blanchard’s album sits atop the foundation set by her approach to the album’s songs and their presentation both on record and in writing in two languages.

Both Blanchard’s dual-language approach to her new album both on record and in writing do plenty to make it an impressive first effort from the talented, young artist. For all of their importance to the overall structure of this record, the actual content of the album in regards to its musical and lyrical content is just as important to its whole. In regards to both elements, Blanchard manages quite well to stand out from so many of her more well-known counterparts. Listening to the album’s musical content, the first comparison that this critic came up with was to Mazzy Star. That is at least in songs such as ‘Mon Ange,’ and ‘Rame.’ At other points, listeners can hear hints of Vanessa Carlton (at least in her vocal delivery style), Norah Jones (both vocally and stylistically) and others. The combination of such comparisons in regards to both Blanchard’s own vocal delivery style and the overall stylistic approach to her album’s songs shows its ability to hold its own against said artists. The same can be said of the album’s lyrical content. Each of the songs present lyrical content that can be best described as being deeply personal and just as moving. ‘Rame,’ the album’s opener is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content helps the album to hold its own both in the underground realm and against more well-known mainstream acts. Blanchard presents a subject that is in a very dark place. Yet being in such a dark place, her subject still holds out hope, singing that “All is not lost/No/All is not lost. In the case of this song, Blanchard uses the metaphor of a person out at sea in a sinking boat. Despite the situation looking hopeless, her subject receives a sign of hope; a sign that everything will be okay. It is definitely an interesting approach to the topic of maintaining hope and even a partially optimistic outlook on things in those dark times. ‘Le Blues’ is another good example of how the record’s lyrical content helps it to stand out. Blanchard writes in this song of how the blues make her happy. What is interesting about this is that she is not necessarily referring directly to the blues that many might think. She refers seemingly to the different shades of blue in the world as well as the blues as a musical style. The gentle tones of the song’s piano line and the song’s overall somewhat jazzy style accent those lyrics so well. The combination of her play on words and the song’s musical content makes this song yet another prime example of why Deux Visions lives up to its title. ‘Papa…Pere’ is one more example of how the lyrical content of Deux Visions makes it such an original, standout recording for Blanchard. This deeply emotional piece presents Blanchard’s subject apparently singing to her father. It is inferred as she sings, “I looked up at the sky/And I said your name/Papa…Father/Where are you/And that’s when I saw you/Your star/Dancing across the sky/Flying over the atmosphere’s horizon/And just like that you heard me/And you came to me/Papa.” This is just one small portion of the song’s lyrical content. But it is a strong example of why this song helps to make the album in whole stand out. Those lyrics (and the rest of the song’s lyrics) alongside its gentle musical backing will move to tears every person that hears it. Any person that is not so moved is either heartless or not human. It is just one more example of how the combination of Deux Visions’ lyrical and musical content together serves to make it a standout recording both against music produced by Blanchard’s more well-known counterparts and for herself. Together with the presentation of its songs in both French and English both musically and on paper, all three elements show without argument why Deux Visions is a solid start for Blanchard and why it is also one of the best of this year’s new world music records.

Deux Visions is an impressive first full-length effort from Francesca Blanchard. The twelve-song record presents its songs both in French and English both on record and in print. The combined musical and lyrical content of the album’s songs add even more to the album’s benefit. All three elements combined, they prove that this record is just as enjoyable for audiences as those released by her more well-known counterparts in the mainstream pop and rock worlds. Being such a strong effort, the album in whole also goes to show that it is without argument one of the best of this year’s new World Music records so far. It will be available Friday, October 2nd and can be ordered direct via Blanchard’s official bandcamp website at http://francescablanchard.bandcamp.com/. It can also be pre-ordered via that website now. More information on Deux Visions is available online now along with all of Blanchard’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.francescablanchard.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/francescablanchardmusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cheskablanch

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Future Hits Show The Way So Far For This Year’s Crop Of Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  Coach House Sounds

Courtesy: Coach House Sounds

Today Is Forever, the new album from Chicago’s own Future Hits, is one of the most intriguing children’s albums to be released so far in 2015. The twenty-four track disc is unlike anything in the world of children’s music to date. Even before listeners crack open the album’s packaging, they will notice that the album’s twenty-four total tracks are split into twelve English tracks and twelve translated into Spanish. Not even other bi-lingual children’s albums go to or have even gone to such lengths. It’s the first reason that audiences will appreciate this album. On a related note, the lyrics booklet included with the album presents the lyrics to each song in both English and Spanish. It serves to enhance the album’s enjoyment even more for audiences. The band’s stylistic approach to the songs that make up this album make it even more enjoyable. This is especially the case for older audiences that are fans of the indie-rock sound. The songs, both in their presentation and original stylistic approach on this album, prove well within themselves why Today Is Forever is an album that parents and children alike will enjoy. They are not all to consider in what makes Today is Forever one of this year’s most standout children’s album. The “Educational Chart” included in the album helps both teachers and parents develop much-needed social and personal skills. And just as with the songs that make up the album, the chart is presented both in English and Spanish. Again, this is entirely unlike anything that any other bi-lingual children’s entertainer has done to date with his or her (or their) album. The combination of all of these elements shows precisely why Today is Forever is an album that belongs in every home and every classroom for the forseeable future if not forever.

Future Hits’ new album Today is Forever is one of the most interesting children’s albums to be released so far in 2015. The main reason being that it is completely unlike any bi-lingual act out there today. This includes acts that create music for children and those that craft music aimed more at older audiences. As audiences will note in listening to Today is Forever, the album sets itself apart from any other children’s music not by mixing Spanish and English but by actually separating them out but still presenting them together in one full collection. For all intents and purposes, it’s like having two albums in one. Even more impressive is that the second half of the album is a mirror image of the first. In other words, the order of the album’s songs is exactly the same both in its English and Spanish presentation. As if that isn’t impressive enough within itself, front man Matt Baron and his band mates–Emma Hospelhorn (bass, vocal, flute, synth), Ben Sutherland (guitar, bass, vocals, glockenspiel) and Nic Kabat (drums)–have crafted twelve songs that are themselves unlike the songs crafted by other children’s entertainment acts. From a song about the joy of flying a kite in ‘Nylon Bird’ to the joy of writing an actual letter versus sending an e-mail in ‘Lost Art Form’ to wanting to bring joy to another by bringing him or her a lost photo and more, the lyrical content of these songs is nothing like that of songs crafted by any other children’s act. Coupled with the separate English and Spanish translations, the songs stand out even more and in turn help Today is Forever stand out in its own special way among the year’s early crop of children’s albums.

Today is Forever is one of the most intriguing of 2015’s early crop of children’s albums. That is thanks to the fact that the album presents its songs both in English and Spanish and because their lyrical content is unlike that of any other children’s acts. The overall sound of the songs on this album makes it stand out even more among other children’s albums. The album’s sound is a blatant indie rock style. It goes without saying that typically one doesn’t associate the indie rock sound with children’s music. It’s even more proof that the stereotype of children’s music is just that–a stereotype. And while the indie rock sound isn’t necessarily for everyone, it does have its own audience. And those audiences that are fans of the indie rock sound will enjoy Today is Forever if only for that purpose. Though even those that are not indie rock fans will enjoy the album for the aforementioned reasons of the songs’ lyrical content and its dual English/Spanish presentation. Regardless of whether for the songs’ musical style, their lyrical approach, or for their arrangement across the album, every listen will agree that all of the noted elements make for plenty of reasons for audiences to check out Today is Forever.

The lyrical and musical approach taken by Future Hits on its new album are both key elements in the success of the group’s new album. The dual English/Spanish presentation of the songs across the album makes it stand out even more and that much more of a success. Being that there is so much to note of Today is Forever, one would think that there couldn’t possibly be more to note to its positive. That would be wrong. There is in fact still more that makes Today is Forever stand out. Along with the songs that make up the body of the record, Baron and company have included a chart in the album’s companion booklet that helps teachers and parents alike develop many of the social and personal skills that young listeners need to learn. The chart serves as a starting point for teachers and parents to teach lessons about playing well with others, emotions and the proper way to display them, and even empathy among many others. Even more interesting is that not only does the chart serve as a starting point for those much-needed skills, but it also serves as a starting point for grammar lessons. And just as with the album’s songs, the chart is presented both in English and Spanish. It is the finishing touch on an album that while it may not musically be for everyone, is an album that everyone will appreciate for plenty of other reasons.

Today is Forever presents to audiences an album that will entertain audiences both lyrically and musically. That is because the songs are unlike those of any other children’s act both in terms of their musical and lyrical approach. The fact that it clearly caters to dual audiences in a manner completely unlike other children’s acts makes it stand out even more. The end result of all of these elements is an album that deserves at least one listen by every teacher and parent regardless of his or her musical taste. In doing so, every parent and teacher will agree that this record is indeed one of the year’s early best new albums for children and families. More information on Today is Forever and all of the latest updates from Future Hits is available online at:

Website: http://www.futurehits.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/futurehitsmusic

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.