Recess Monkey
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Recess Monkey


Band Rock Children's Music


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The best kept secret in music


"Review of "Aminal House""

If you weren't convinced by the cover that Aminal House (yes, that's spelled correctly) had some Beatles influences, the liner notes, which thank, among others, Billy Shears, would seal the deal.

So what about the album itself -- is it worthy of such blatant Beatles homages?

Well, yes.

Aminal House (late 2006) is the second album from Seattle-based band Recess Monkey and whereas The Sippy Cups sort of tap the psychedelic part of '60s and '70s rock for their sound, Recess Monkey sticks more closely to the Beatles for their sound and inspiration. Which isn't to say that they sound like the Beatles -- they often sound more like Beatles-inspired bands such as Crowded House. At they very least, they, like the Beatles, are willing to explore a wide range of rock sounds, from the funk of the opening, title track to the singalong chorus of "Aquarium" to the Elton John-like piano ballad "Grey Zebra." (They're fine with more direct homages, too, pulling out a very "Blackbird"-like acoustic guitar figure for "Butterfly," for example.) One of my favorite tracks is "Cookie," a '60s rocker with a hint of Motown about a very nervous pointer dog ("Cookie don't crumble now / Cookie don't fall apart"). Musically, the group is tight; singer Drew Holloway uses the occasional falsetto to good effect, too.

Thematically, the songs are all animal-related, treating animals as characters with personality. The album also has a few sketches which are mostly amusing and very reminiscent in spirit (and somewhat in vocal characterizations) of SteveSongs' Marevlous Day! album. (And, hey, it's not every day you listen to a kids' album that makes a John Vanderslice reference, and a funny one at that.) At 54 minutes in length, it runs on a bit too long, but at least they're experimenting to the end.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9, which isn't surprising since the album includes kids voices on some tracks and their ideas from a summer camp led by the band in summer 2006. You can hear the album's first five tracks here and purchase the album here.

Aminal House is an album that must have been a blast to make, chock-full of creativity. The album is never less than interesting, and always a melodious spin. Definitely recommended. -, Stefan Shephard

"Another Review of "Aminal House""

With an CD cover like this, you might expect a Beatles-inspired concept album of sorts. Well, you'd be kinda right: the album begins on a "Sgt. Pepper" / "I Am the Walrus" vibe, and includes a "Taxman" clone, with a thread of animal songs (both wild and domestic) running throughout. Sound interesting? It gets better: the tunes on Aminal House are incredibly poptastic, on par with Chris von Sneidern at his best and Jellyfish on a very silly day. Say hi to Recess Monkey!

These three teachers from Seattle who call themselves Recess Monkey released their first CD, Welcome to Monkey Town, back in 2005. Their second is a brilliant mix of melodicism, akin to The Quiet Two (formerly The Quiet Ones); science facts, much like Teacher and the Rockbots; and all-around jollity, a la Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Aminal House kicks off with a massive string of great tunes, each one better than the last. I mean, just check out the choruses of "Aquarium" and "Zoo Zoo Zoo"; the "Taxman" verse of "KC (He's a Fine Dog)"; the softshoe cabaret of "Fred (The Tabby Cat)" ... just wait 'till the chorus hits and you can totally picture a thousand kids on a hilltop singing, "Meow, Meow!"

The album continues with, among others, the beautiful "Butterfly", the powerpop of "Littlest Monkey", the quiet/loud pastoral "The Rabbits", the piano anthem "Grey Zebra", a little surf rock with "Pet Shark", and the Todd Rundgren-y "Cookie". Throw in a few short, silly skits and some general rowdiness with the Monkey Town characters, and you've got yerself a great presentation!

Incredibly hooky chord changes and sophisticated arrangements elevate this CD far above yer average kids' album; and the spacious, in-the-same-room production is extremely well done. It's hard to believe this is an independent release! and a kids' album, at that! by three silly teachers!

Lots of goofiness, lots of awesome songs, lots of fun. Recess time! - Waren Truitt, NYC Public Library


"Aminal House" 2006
"Welcome to Monkey Town" 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


Daron Henry (percussion and vocals), Jack Forman (bass and vocals), and Drew Holloway (vocals, guitars, and piano) are teachers of preschool and elementary aged children who met while teaching at the same school in Seattle. The three share a love of working with kids, making music, and just plain old goofing around-all of which make Recess Monkey a big hit.
And not just with kids! Recess Monkey creates music for kids and grownups who ROCK! Sure they sing a ballad or two but many songs feature rocking guitar and big drums. Their records pair the lyrical wit and whimsy of the Muppets with Beatlesque melodies.
What started as a homespun demo for a graduate class later became the inspiration for Recess Monkey. Many of the demo’s original preschool-themed songs were rerecorded for the band’s first CD, “Welcome to Recess Monkey Town (2005),” Recess Monkey celebrated friendship with “Warm Words” and “Playdate” and imagination with “Dress Up” and “I Got a Toy But I Played with the Box.
Their sophomore effort, “Aminal House (sic) (2006),” was written and recorded with the help of over 80 summer campers. Over the course of one week in August 2006, kids helped the band generate song ideas, perform vocal and rhythm tracks, and create album artwork. The CD boasts 20 original animal anthems that cross a variety of genres. Stefan Shepard at comments that Aminal House is, “chock-full of creativity, never less than interesting, and always a melodious spin. Definitely recommended.”
Recess Monkey performs at Seattle area schools, bookstores, coffeehouses, and toy stores. Their live act is zany and interactive with plenty of shenanigans for kids of all ages. This spring they will take the Sky Church stage at the Experience Music Project [EMP] for a Family Day celebration.