When I’m scouting music to review, I generally try to introduce you to artists you may not have heard before. However, when one of my all time favourite children’s bands recently released a new album, I couldn’t resist sharing. Come spend a little more time listening to Lunch Money.
We reviewed Lunch Money’s first two albums more than a year ago and their latest, Original Friend, provides the same brand of effervescent pop as well as lots of new elements, including a small but appropriate foray into rap and the use of strings and brass. It’s noteworthy that Lunch Money’s style is evolving. My bugbear with children’s music is that too often artists continue to dish up the same sound, album after album, on the basis that their ‘audience’ is brand new every few years. Original Friend is, as the title promises, ‘original’.
Expect a mesmerising, waltz-inspired sound in Getaway Car – it’s chock full of accordion, played like it should be (jolly) as well as lead singer Molly Ledford’s, exquisite lyrics – “And we were winning races in marketplaces, I grabbed an apple as we passed.” Seriously, her lyrics are poetry and you’ll seek the album notes just to read them.
In stark contrast to Getaway Car is Come Over to My Dollhouse. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is a guest vocalist on this track and as you would expect, there’s a strong rap element. This is a terrific song, if only because it points out the fact that boys like to play with dolls (Transformers, Superman and so on). And just as rap and pop collide, so do Strawberry Shortcake and R2D2 –
“Come over to my dollhouse,
What about Superman, shouldn’t he be saving the day?,
Yeah, he’s picking up a cake on his way.”
My favourite track is the gorgeous You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles. Frances England joins Lunch Money for this beautiful song and teamed with Ledford, their harmonies are perfection. “And bubbles, they surround us like all the jokes we share…” I hope there are more Lunch Money and England collaborations in the future.
The theme of the album is friendship and while that could become saccharin, Lunch Money cleverly explores both the rock solid and fragile aspects of children’s friendships. A great example of this is the track, Picking Teams. Remember the excruciating process of being picked off one-by-one for teams at school, praying you’re not last?! Lunch Money capture it perfectly with some slide guitar and harmonica thrown in –
“Are we picking teams again?
Well, I’ll try to look taller,
Do a little stretch,
Act like a good specimen…
None of us wants to be left at the end,
‘Cause, like it or not, it feels like we’re picking friends.”
Keeping with the friendship theme is the pure pop of Please Don’t Move (to Another Time Zone), Friend Donut and the short but sweet opening track, Friends Again. I particularly like this one because it’s about repairing broken friendships and as so often happens, kids say “They’re not my friend anymore!”.
Lastly, special mention must be made of the sensational liner notes that accompany the CD (good reason to buy the CD instead of downloading the album from iTunes). The artwork for the liner notes, by Brandon Reese, is exceptional and again, an original concept. Written as a storybook-meets-cookbook-meets-musical-credits, each page has an illustration of a little girl and her friend Bear, with a doughnut incorporated into the design. Let it go on record that my kids are still fighting over who gets to hold the CD cover when we play Original Friend.