The genre that is family music is one that has always stood out from the rest other genres that make up the musical universe. That is because by and large the music that fills that space is constantly so diverse even as the lyrical themes in so many songs are largely the same. Even being so much the same from one song to the next, the themes are important because they promote individuality, self-confidence, creativity, and so many other items that are key not only for personal growth and development in younger people, but for continued development in older audiences. To that end, those themes are just as accessible for younger listeners as for their more seasoned counterparts. In the same vein, the diversity in the genre’s musical content is just as enjoyable if not more so. That is because honestly, more often than not, it is more diverse than in so much mainstream music for older audiences. At the same time, it will again, more often than not, appeal to such a wide range of audiences. Keeping all of this in mind, the world of family music really is just as deserving of having its own list of top new albums as any other genre, and that is why this critic has continued to present exactly that for so many years.
This year is no different from past years, either. This year was another successful one in the family music world. New albums from veterans, such as Laurie Berkner, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, and Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band joined new records from up-and-comers, such as Ben Tatar & The Tatar Tots, Twinkle, and Stacey Peasley among many other established acts. All in all, this year’s field of new family music albums represented the present and future of the genre very nicely, as today’s list will show.
Keeping in mind everything noted about the importance of the content in every family music record, developing a list of the year’s top new albums in the genre is never easy. This critic tried, though. The result of those efforts is this critic’s view of the year’s top 10 best family music albums and five additional honorable mentions, for a total of 15 new offerings. So without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2021 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2021 TOP 10 NEW FAMILY MUSIC ALBUMS
Koo Koo Kanga Roo – Slow Clap
The Story Pirates – The Strawberry Band
Sarah Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree
The Bright Siders – A Mind of Your Own
Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band—Crayon Kids
Laurie Berkner – Let’s Go
Twinkle – It’s OK To Be Me
Gordie “Crazylegs” MacKeeman – Folk For Little Folk Vol. 1
Tracy Bonham – Young Maestros Vol. 1
Genevieve Goings – Great Indoors
Tunes With Tim – We’re All Human
Stacey Peasley – Make It Happen
Jenn Cleary – All Together Now
Kelli Welli – Let’s Go Pistachio
Ben Tatar & The Tatar Tots – Seconds
That’s all for this year’s list of top new family music albums. The new year is just around and the corner and no doubt, lots of new family music is coming with the new year, too.
Learning about feelings and how to handle them are among the most important aspects of every child’s personal growth. That is because being able to navigate their feelings (and related thoughts) can be the difference between a happy, healthy childhood and some very troubled developmental years. That is why there is so much content out there aimed at helping children and their parents make their way through the matter. Family music entertainment act The Bright Siders is inserting itself into those discussions this week with its latest album A Mind of Your Own. Scheduled for release Friday through Smithsonian Folkways, the 19-song record is its own effective way for families to talk about feelings and help children handle this aspect of their growth and development. The lyrical themes that are presented in this record do their own part to support the noted statement. They will be discussed. The musical arrangements that accompany the record’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to the album and will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to this record’s presentation. It will also be addressed later. When it and the record’s content are noted collectively, the whole of A Mind of Your Own proves itself to be a positive presentation that will certainly appeal widely to families.
The Bright Siders’ new forthcoming album A Mind of Your Own is a presentation that parents and educators alike will find a highly useful tool in helping children in their emotional development. This is proven in no small part through the record’s featured lyrical themes. The themes in question address feelings and the thoughts that connect with those feelings. What is important to note here is that the themes in question are not just about feeling happy or sad. They go into more depth than that. Case in point is the theme featured in the skit ‘New Kid’ and its companion song ‘Forever Friends.’ The pair addresses the feeling of insecurity that young people go through when a family moves, leading the children to start at a new school and navigate the waters of developing new friendship bonds. This is not a joking matter. It can be (and typically is) very emotionally stressful for young people. The manner in which the topic was broached here is to be commended.
Staying somewhat on the noted topic, the matter of overcoming insecurities and its relation to doing things that are difficult is also addressed in this record in the pairing of the skit ‘The Talent Show’ and its companion song ‘Oops! I Made a Mistake.’ The subject in the noted skit messes up in playing the piano and states that he will never play the piano again because of that one error. From there, the song comes into play, reminding that subject and listeners in general that it is okay to make mistakes. The song ends with the subject coming to terms with his mistake and realizing that mistakes happen.
On yet another note, the group takes on the feeling of stress that often can and doe overwhelm young people in this album in the pairing of ‘Super Busy Kids’ and its companion song ‘Jumping Through Hoops.’ The skit and its companion song reminds young listeners that those overwhelming times do happen, and that they need to just remember to do the best they can in such situations because “in the end, you’ll come out the other side.” This is a lesson of which every young person needs reminding. They need that reassurance that no matter how stressful life can get and does get at times, it is important to know that those stressful moments are only temporary. This is one more way in which this album’s lyrical content proves its importance. When this and the other noted themes presented in this album along with the more commonly addressed topics, the whole of the album’s lyrical content forms a strong foundation for the album. Building on that foundation and making the album even more appealing is the musical content that accompanies the album’s lyrical content.
The musical content that is featured in A Mind of Your Own is notable due to its diversity. From start to end, the album features a relatively wide range of stylistic approaches. It opens with a soulful, funky style work in ‘The Song About Songs’ before giving way to a work in ‘The Mad Day’ that blends elements of reggae and even some Cajun. It sounds like an odd combination, but the balance of the influences is handled expertly here. As the album progresses, its musical arrangements continue their constant change. ‘Vamos a Jugar (Let’s Go Play)’ for instance presents a light Hispanic influence. The subtlety here is so welcome. It would have been so easy for the group to go all out and over the top here, but didn’t go that route. The result is an arrangement that not only again continues that variance in the record’s musical stylings, but also shows a certain respect to the Hispanic community by not going all out. As if that is not enough, things take yet another turn in ‘Jumping Through Hoops,’ which offers up a fun, light country/bluegrass composition. The variety does not end there, either. The anti-bullying anthem ‘Bully This’ gives audiences a touch of garage punk style music, showing even more the album’s musical diversity. Simply put, between this song’s arrangement, the others noted here and those of the rest of the album’s songs, this album offers just as much to appreciate from its musical presentation as from its lyrical presentation. Even with all of this in mind, there is still at least one more item to address in examining A Mind of Your Own. That remaining item is the album’s sequencing.
The sequencing of The Bright Siders’ new album is important because it is this aspect that is responsible for ensuring the record’s content keeps listeners engaged and entertained. As already noted, the album’s musical stylings are varied throughout the course of its 38-minute run time. Thanks to the sequencing, that variance keeps things interesting for audiences from beginning to end. The album never sticks too long to one style of song. At the same time, the record’s energy rises and falls at all of the right moments, hitting the more energetic moments and more reserved moments at all of the right points. Adding even more to the discussion here is that the sequencing keeps the album’s lyrical themes just as varied as its musical content. Listeners are taken on a lyrical journey that covers such a wide range of feelings and thoughts. All things considered here, the sequencing of The Bright Siders’ new album proves just as important as the album’s content. It ensures the content featured here keeps listeners engaged just as much as the album’s content itself. When all of this is considered together, the album proves itself another early candidate for a spot on this year’s list of top new family music albums.
The Bright Siders’ new album A Mind of Your Own is a successful new entry from the family music collective that will appeal widely to audiences of all ages. That is proven in part through its lyrical content, which directly addresses the myriad feelings, emotions and thoughts that children feel as they grow and develop emotionally and mentally. The lyrical content that fills out the album’s body adds even more to the record’s appeal because it is as diverse as the record’s lyrical themes. The sequencing of the noted content puts the finishing touch to the album’s presentation, brining everything full circle and completing the album’s presentation. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record. All things considered, they make A Mind of Your Own a record that deserves its own place on any critic’s list of the year’s top new family music albums. A Mind of Your Own is available along with all of the latest news from The Bright Siders at: