As a rule, musicians hate it when you instinctively describe their sound by relating it to other bands or artists. Yet that is exactly what I am about to do.
On their recently released CD The New Explorers Club, Maine’s Flannery Brothers sound like a sonic pillow fight between Jonathan Richman and They Might Be Giants. There – I did it. And I did it with the added amenity of ham-fisted imagery. Go me.
I parallel the Flannery Brothers with such eccentric pop luminaries because, like any good kids music act, it’s easy to mistake their output for more traditional flavors of fresh-faced indie rock. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were times in recent weeks where a song like the island groove-heavy “Kitchen Floor” wormed its way into a random playlist and I unapologetically bobbed my head, only vaguely aware that I was listening to a track more specifically written for my children.
The New Explorers Club is positively eaten up with perfectly relatable little musical moments like that. From the sultry shaker and punctuating horn hits of opener “Big Kite” to jaunty acoustic anti-ballad “Best Adventure,” the album genuinely sounds like childhood. It manages to capture that wonder and innocence while still challenging the listener with its eclectic tastes. Like Sesame Street or a trip to the natural history museum, the Flannery Brothers engage audiences of all ages by reminding us that the most fun and fascinating things in life are also often the simplest.
Tracks like “Swallowed a Bug” (which channels an almost ragtime danceability), the preschool friendly “Hi 5 Dance” and the jangly “Boots” excel as much by the group’s own musical virtues as they do their blissful neglect of anything resembling the traditional educational slant of children’s music. Even in songs that do purport more edutaining content – like “In the Middle,” a beginner’s lesson on the concept of relativity, or the particularly tuneful “The Elements,” which catalogs the joys of outdoor play – The Flannerys approach such subjects coyly.
Rather than saturate their music with tales of school day triumphs of warning against cavities, The Flannery Brothers instead seek to make music that inspires by elevating. It’s feel good music of the highest order, and it should easily prove infectious to listeners young and old. Will the outright absurdity of “Pirate or Parrot?” teach your daughter to tie her shoes? No, but it will likely cheer her up after a tough soccer game or help her decompress on a long car trip, and sometimes that’s more than enough.
The New Explorers Club is another grand addition to your kids music library, and it’s available from in both digital and physical formats to suit either taste. Those looking to try before they buy are also encouraged to check out the group’s official site for a full album stream. At 13 tracks it’s just the right length, and because of the obvious care taken in the writing and recording of this impressive collection it is certainly an easy sell.
Flannery Brothers fans in the mood for an even more outrageous listening experience are likewise encouraged to check out the band’s follow-up Dance Songs for Silly Kids. This 12-song collection remixes the band’s 2009 release Love Songs for Silly Things in its entirety. With high energy electronic tracks about sunglasses and trips to the farmer’s market, it’s another highly enjoyable and easily relatable collection for the proverbial kids of all ages.
And you can’t beat the price. Which is free.
Pick both up to share with your little ones during the enjoyable (if exhausting) holiday season ahead. And remember: if it’s got wings – parrot, a peg leg – pirate.
Hey, I learned something after all!