The first time Liko heard Frances England's first CD, Fascinating Creatures, he stopped dead in his tracks. As the hypnotic first song, "Sometimes," ended, Liko asked, "Who is this?"
"It's Liam's mommy, Frances. Remember her?"
"What do you think of her songs?"
"They're good," he said, and plopped down on the floor. He sat through the entire CD, listening intently.
Weeks later, I put on the CD and as "Sometimes" started to play, he cried out, "That's my favorite song!"
Weeks after that, I brought Frances's new CD, Family Tree, along on a vacation with another family.
As little kids swarmed around the living room of our vacation house, I put on Family Tree. The commotion stopped and they all stood still, listening.
"Who is this?" asked Jody.
"Our friend Frances. It's her new CD."
"Wow, this is really good."
"I think so."
"It sounds like grown-up music," said her husband Alex. "This reminds me of Sarah McLachlan. Or maybe Nora Jones?"
"I always think of Ricki Lee Jones and Lisa Loeb and Aimee Mann," I said. "But not as dark."
In fact, the opposite of dark: Mellow, happy, content.
And a few weeks after that, we were playing with our friends Molly and her little boy Linus. I played Family Tree and Molly asked who we were hearing. I told her and mentioned that it was a kid's CD.
"This is tot music?" asked Molly incredulously. "No way."
Fascinating Creatures and Family Tree aren't the only children's CDs we own that also appeal to adults: Justin Roberts rocks, and so do the Sippy Cups. It appears to be something of a movement...music for kids and parents alike, with songs that speak to children's mindsets while remaining creatively interesting and thematically complex.
But even among kiddie-indie (kindie?) rock peers, Frances's music really stands out. These are not so much kid's songs as songs that address family themes: new siblings, playing in the dirt, getting older, all that stuff. Her best songs evoke childlike feelings in adults, while children listening to her music might find their kid's eye view of the world expanding.
Here's a video of "Tricycle," from her first CD (one of her more kid-oriented songs):
You can listen to Fascinating Creatures and buy it here; you can do the same for Family Tree here.
[Originally posted to my Mothering magazine blog.]