I’ll come running with a heart on fire

I really like music recorded by kids. Some of my favorites include “Daddy What If” by Bobby Bare and Bobby Bare Jr.; 1970s UK novelty hit “I Am an Astronaut” by Riky Wilde; and just the other day a WFMU DJ played some great tracks by middle school students making electronic music. Kidz Bop offers a whole series featuring children singing pop songs. Last year, the compilation included an eerie version of “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

Whenever I hear songs like these, I wish I had recordings of me performing as a child. I would love to hear my second grade performance of “Les Poissons” from The Little Mermaid. I stood up on stage in a white chef’s outfit holding a homemade stuffed crab. My mom accompanied me on the piano. We could have toured with that.

Which leads me to my current favorite kids’ act, Smoosh. I remember hearing about the Seattle preteen duo when they passed through New York for last year’s CMJ festival. The hype was understandable: two sisters (under the guidance of Death Cab for Cutie’s Jason McGerr) made a catchy indie-pop album at the ages of 10 and 12. It’s an intriguing combination of O.C.-brand pop and 1980s Pacific Northwest twee such as Beat Happening. The band has received a considerable amount of press. NME, Time Out NY, Vice, BBC News, NPR, and others have given it outstanding reviews. The indie community has also embraced Smoosh with open arms, as they’ve shared the stage with high profile acts like the Unicorns, Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Sufjan Stevens and are currently supporting the Go!Team on a UK tour.

Smoosh recorded an album in 2004 called She Like Electric. It’s one of those rare kids’ albums that can be appreciated by all age groups. It’s perfect for those who are just starting to explore music, those who are starting to tire of music, and everyone in between. They have really fun, fuzzed-out keyboard parts and killer vocals, so warbly they make Will Oldham jealous. Their single, “Rad,” is probably the catchiest song on the album. Other stand-out tracks include “La Pump” and “Massive Curve,” which you can listen to at the band’s website.

Smoosh is currently up for Spin.com’s “Band of the Year” competing against big names like Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Feist. This next round of voting they’re up against my friend’s band, The Upwelling… I’m torn who to vote for.

Follow the links to Smoosh’s great claymation video for “La Pump” and a cool interview on NPR.

10 responses to “I’ll come running with a heart on fire”

  1. Dave says:

    That video is so awesome!

  2. Bryan Waterman says:

    This was great, Nathan. Great links. A couple responses:

    1. I would kill for a video of you doing the song from the Little Mermaid. Do you still remember it? Have you ever performed it live since?

    2. Are you sure mom and dad never recorded you? When I was a kid–I must have been in 5th grade or so–they made a bunch of cassettes of us singing. They were in a neat little case labeled “Our Family Roots” or something like that. We all got to choose our own song. I picked “Fade Away and Radiate” from Blondie’s Parallel Lines. That was before you were born, but I would be surprised if they didn’t do something like that later.

    3. I would never have thought to give Kidz Bop a shot, since they seem to pick such nasty songs to cover, and I detest the idea of music produced specifically for kids. Isn’t that why God invented the Beatles, so parents didn’t have to live through shitty kids’ music? There’s so much awesome music in the world, why dumb it down? That’s why Sesame Street and the Muppets are major exceptions: because they’re really designed for the adults who have to spend so much time with small children–to keep them sane. But the idea of over-produced, well-scrubbed waspy kids singing Modest Mouse may have some serious kitsch factor going for it.

  3. Yeah that video is really cool. I couldn’t help thinking how much more interesting it was to watch it knowing that is was a commercial product and yet it had some “art” in it. As opposed to all the video art I see that tries to not be a commercial product (but is) but then doesn’t really have any other reason for being and as such doesn’t really even have much “art”

    Does that make sense?

  4. Nathan says:

    i still know the words to all the little mermaid songs. i don’t think there were any recordings of me as a child. the only video footage is from mesa the day you got home from your mission. i think i was 7. mom did record the piano part to les poissons and i’m sure they have that kicking around the house.

    i don’t remember mom and dad recording me but i do remember going into a studio with sister flake.. don’t remember which sister, but there were about 10 kids from mesa, holbrook, show low, and snowflake. we recorded primary songs.

    kidz bop can be pretty shitty, but if you pick out a song here or there and put it on a mix, it works great. the neighbor kids in park slope would sing along to los kidz bop on saturday mornings. that’s great stuff.

    i’m not sure who made the claymation video. i tried to do a little research before i posted it but came up empty handed. did anyone else see credits for it?

  5. Jeremy Zitter says:

    I hear you, Nate, though, personally, I hope my Dad burned the copy of me singing that solo of “The Greatest American Hero Theme Song,” backed by my elementary-school class at a local strip mall–not to mention the copy of me singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at a school recital.

  6. Nathan says:

    wow, see i want to go around collecting this kind of stuff.

  7. Dave says:

    Y’all have got to check out this video of a five-year-old recreating one of the greatest music videos ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSOh9H8JiEk

  8. Diana says:

    Makers of the Smoosh claymation video: CommonDeer, Ace Norton & Charles Spano – http://www.commondeer.com

  9. Stephanie says:

    Dave: what was the video the 5-year-old recreated? I gotta know because it’s been “removed for copyright infringement” by the Fascist Man, man!!!

  10. Dave says:

    “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from the documentary “Don’t Look Back.” You know, the one where Dylan stares at the camera and drops cuecards with the lyrics of the song written on them.