Hot Air From Recess Monkey

To all of my penguin readers out there, please raise your flipper if you are familiar with the band “Recess Monkey.” Mm hmm, yes, I see a lot of flippers going up. I’m sure that, even if you were not previously aware of this fine band, you have recently seen their pro-penguin music video that has been spreading around the internet. I myself shared this video on social media, to raise general awareness of Penguins. The song is called Penguinese, and the video is right here, if you have’t seen it yet. But come on, let’s be honest. What penguin has not seen this video at this point?

So we have been enjoying the video around the house, even though no one in my family is technically a penguin, and then I got this press release the other day, talking about a new album from Recess Monkey that includes this particular song. The album is called “Hot Air,” and at the bottom of the release it gave information on requesting a free review copy. A free review copy? And I could just…request one? Did I dare? Yes, I told myself, repeating the Dad blogger mantra of “just ask.” I asked, and a few days later a package arrived at my door containing something very clever.

“Hot Air” contains two discs. One is labeled “The Music,” and the other “The Story.” I popped in the music one first and zapped all of the tracks over to my iPod, ready to try them out on the children. We got in the car to go off to somewhere interesting (probably Taekwan-do, but one can never be sure where we are going when I am in charge of navigating), and I put the album on. Aaaaaaaaand….. crickets. The kids were not immediately drawn in. I liked it, but they were not as excited as I wanted them to be. They did perk up when Penguinese came on, because they knew that one already, but otherwise they couldn’t be bothered. And this is where the clever part comes in.

I don’t want to make broad generalizations about children and music, but I must. I don’t want to say that children cannot recognize and appreciate complex music, but, well, it may take them a little longer to get used to it is all. What is great about “kindie” music, and Recess Monkey in particular, is that it combines more complex and grown-up styles of music with themes and topics that kids might find interesting. There is no dumbing down here, and it’s good for kids to hear this kind of thing and become used to it. But how to draw them into it in the first place, when they are used to Radio Disney and boats being rowed gently and merrily through some watery existential netherworld? I got home worried that my kids were never going to like this album that I was already getting into. And then I put in the second disc.

Instead of opening up iTunes like I thought it should, my computer asked how I wanted to play this DVD. DVD?! Well! I didn’t want the computer to play it at all! I wanted it on the TV! So I sat the kids down in front of “The Story,” and watched to see what would happen. I seriously had no idea that this came with a DVD, mostly because I did not do my research ahead of time like I should have, so I was as excited as the kids to see what would happen.

This was not just a collection of music videos (although the Penguinese video is included). This was not a lame, half-way effort to put a little something extra into the album. This was a full on story. Over 35 minutes of video, interweaving most of the music from the album and a, ummmm, what’s a word that means cute and funny? Well, okay, a cute and funny tale of a boy (man?), an accidental hot air balloon race, and a penguin on a flying carpet. My kids loved it. As soon as it was over, they asked if they could watch it again. So we did.

Recess Monkey, you are geniuses. Songs like “Hand Me Downs” and “Paper Airplane” I was already tapping my toes away to in the car, but once my kids had a visual and a story to go with it all, suddenly they loved them too. By providing context and character, Recess Monkey has created an enduring and relatable set of songs that both kids and adults will keep pressing “repeat” on until the repeat button wears out. This makes me very happy, because now “Hot Air” becomes more like a soundtrack to them, but still like an awesome collection of songs to me, and we can enjoy it together as a family.

“Hot Air” releases in two weeks on June 16th, and you can also catch Recess Monkey on tour starting now-ish! And if nothing else, their ode to Empire Strikes Back (titled “Oh, Lando”) is worth the price of the album on its own. But then, you probably already knew that. If you are a penguin.


Posted in Music, Parenting, Penguins, Recess Monkey, Tenor Tuesday.

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