Justin Roberts keeps on outdoing himself, which is no small feat for the Grammy-nominated kids' artist. Recess is his ninth release and it has all of the elements we have come to expect from him: thoughtful lyrics sung from a kid's perspective, beautifully constructed songs that reflect a deep love and understanding of pop music, and undeniable joy all along the way. There's no shortage of clever kids' music out there, but Justin Roberts stands apart by making smart kids' music.
It's hard to pick favorites, so I asked my kids. They are all profoundly obsessed with "The Princess Wore Pink." Like Atalanta and Merida before her, this is a princess who doesn't play by the rules, but her transgression is wearing pink "in the kingdom of beige." It turns all of the girlie girl cliches on their ear (a nice reminder for Peggy Orenstein-reading mom to chill), and we can dance to it. Another standout is "My Secret Robot," which tells the love story of a stealthy automaton and his pint-sized master. A beautiful paper robot pops up from the CD packaging, where parents can enter their email address for a secret link for "more hidden secrets." It's excellent stuff, and the robot speaks in perfect Kraftwerk-y syntax.
"Otis" recounts a kid's pilgrimage to visit an elevator in downtown Chicago. Wrapped in this song of devotion to vertical transportation is a little tribute to the Beach Boys, an interlude that drops references to "God Only Knows" and "Our Prayer," sung in perfect Carl Wilson falsetto (a nice treat for big music nerd parents and their progeny). The title track conveys the impatience and giddiness of a young student clock-watching for recess, while "School's Out (Tall Buildings)" is a love letter to both teachers and summer vacation.
It's all so good, thanks in no small part to Justin's band. The excellent Not Ready for Naptime Players (Liam, Gerald, Jacqueline, and David) have been a key part of Justin's sound and live shows for a long time, and their chemistry and humor come across on stage and in recordings. We caught an awesome show a few weeks ago and heard several of the new tracks performed live. Everyone was on their feet, and when it was over there were lots of tired and happy families.
Get Recess and jump if you have the chance to see Justin and the band live.
(Image: Justin Roberts Music)