The Pop Ups
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The Pop Ups

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Avant-garde


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Outside Voices is the debut album from the Brooklyn duo of Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz, who record as The Pop Ups. Sometimes it's Motown, sometimes it's Death Cab for Cutie, it's seriously great and totally for kids, with no compromises for the adults listening in. This album is winning in every way and nothing less than the kids music debut of the year, an inventive mix of beats and melodies that will tickle the eardrums of young and old alike. -- Stefan Shepherd, Zooglobble - Fids and Kamily

The Sound: Imagine MTV circa ’86-’87 (you know, back when they played videos) if MTV was run by a pair of awesome dads with kids ages 4-8 at home.
In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: John Upchurch & Mark Greenberg, Clementown, Dog on Fleas
Best Moments: The Pop Ups debut kindie CD opens with Arcade Fire-like grandeur. “Outside Inside” is an anthem worthy of mid-sized arenas, theatrical lighting and maybe some of that stage smoke. The song uses the dramatic loud/soft rock-n-roll technique to illustrate, um, the loud/soft voices needed depending on your environs. Yeah, it’s a lesson song; maybe the coolest one you’ll ever hear.
The effervescent, dance hall-ready “Big Wheel” rolls with a Justice “D.A.N.C.E.”-esque cool.Unless you are paying close attention to lyrics like “I don’t need / to fit in / as long as I’ve got pedals and some plastic rims”, you’d have absolutely no idea “Big Wheel” was written with children in mind. For fans of electro-pop, this is the kids song of your dreams. For everyone else, feel free to consider “Big Wheel” the kindie dance song of the summer.
Some pasta company (I’m looking at you, Barilla) needs to fork over $50,000 or so for the rights to “Pasta”. If used in a TV spot, the song’s punchy chorus would have moms and dads racing to their grocery store’s Italian aisle for some orecchiette and fusilli. It’s the greatest love song to pasta that’s ever been written. If you’re a musician thinking about recording a spaghetti song or some ditty about durum wheat, feel free to move on to another topic ’cause this bowl of pasta has been perfected.

Bonus Thought: Is it just me or is that picture up there screaming “Take on Me”?
Bonus Bonus Thought: Read my interview with the The Pop Ups here.
Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: At the core of “Outside Voices” are basic kiddie rock staples – animal sounds, balloons, the alphabet – but in the hands of The Pop Ups these commonplace topics end up masquerading as uber-hip 80's-tinged modern rock songs.
If a soundtrack was to be curated for a film about young parents and child-rearing, maybe with Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson as an urban 20-something kid caught by surprise by the pregnancy of his young love but who rises to the occasion and ends up becoming a superb father, “Outside Voices” would be the perfect album for that movie.
The Pop Ups “Outside Voices” is as ambitious a debut kid’s album as I’ve ever heard. While many children’s acts have incorporated a dancey number, a UB40-inspired reggae song, a 1950's jukebox rock tune, and a horn section into a single album, not many have ever exhibited such maturity and mastery of the differing musical ideas in their 1st crack at it. That is what The Pop Ups have done here. Not bad for a bedroom recording project.
This album is magnificent and you need to own it. - Out With the Kids

Review: "Outside Voices" - The Pop Ups

I'd like to think I have a good record of introducing new artists worth following to the world, but I can't be first all the time. As you'd expect, Bill Childs gets his fair share of disks, and last week in his typical understated way, he made an aside in an unrelated e-mail, saying, "I like that Pop Ups CD." I hadn't heard it, and so worked to change that ASAP and...

This is nothing less than the kids music debut of the year, an inventive mix of beats and melodies that will tickle the eardrums of young and old alike.

It's called Outside Voices, and it's from the Brooklyn duo The Pop Ups. The Pop Ups consist of kids music teacher Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz, frontman for the indie-pop band The Bloodsugars and co-writer/producer of three Little Maestros disks on Kid Rhino, so they've come into this project with both a kids music background and no small amount of experience recording music for adult ears.

The opening track, "Outside Inside," is as striking an opening track as I've heard on a kids album in some time. A guitar strum, a piano, and then a soaring vocal accented by an insistent drum track, all in the purpose of describing the difference between outside voices and inside voices. The next track "Subway Train" is an '80s-tinged electronica-assisted tale of alliterative animals on the New York subway system. The reggae-style "Balloon" leads to "Apes in Capes," which must be a Postal Service hidden track about using basic geometric patterns to draw objects. The midtempo rocket "F & G" is the greatest song about a letter pair since They Might Be Giants' "QU."

And so on. The second five tracks are slightly less awesome than the first five, though I have no small fondness for the horn-assisted garage-rocker "Pasta" (I think you can guess what that one's about). And "Up and Down" is pretty much a Sesame Street video begging to be made.

The 37-minute album is pitched toward kids aged 3 through 7, though I can definitely see this being one of those albums that parents occasionally sneak into the car's CD player after dropping the kids off somewhere. For the moment, you can just purchase the album via download. It's now available in both mp3 and tangible CD format. Feel free to stream the whole album below. (Um, that's an order, actually.)

Can you tell I'm over the moon about this album? Good. Because it's seriously great; it's this year's out-of-nowhere surprise equivalent to John and Mark's Children's Record. Totally for kids, with no compromises for the adults listening in, this album is winning in every way. I may not be the very first to tell you about Outside Voices, but I can guarantee you that I will not be the last. Highly recommended.
- Zooglobble

2. The Pop Ups “Outside Voices” - Out With the Kids

This item is being written only for young kids, ages 2 and up. If you are a parent or adult guardian with young children, go and get them and read this to them now. Well, go ahead! What are you waiting for? Ready? OK. Now listen up, kids. I want to tell you all about a show called PASTA! A Pop Ups Puppet Musical . I think you'll love it! It's an educational (that means you can learn stuff) and comic (that means funny) musical (that means there's music) adventure through the magical land of Brooklyn! The Pop Ups are these two crazy guys, and you're supposed to help them find ingredients (that's the stuff that food is made of) to make the best pasta sauce ever! (Pasta are noodles, like spaghetti is a kind of pasta.) The show involves live drawing, dance beats (those are beats that make you wanna dance), colorful puppets, animals, trains, guitar riffs (that means stuff that's played on a guitar), mermaids, gardens, instruments, vegetables, sparkles and dancing (I think that's when they use the dance beats). These are the last three shows before it goes away (at least for this year), and the whole thing is only 45 minutes long, so you won't get bored (y'know, tired or cranky). Even though a lot of grown-ups have been saying that they really, really love the music, it's a show for you! Doesn't it sound like fun? (OK, now you can let your children go back to whatever it was they were doing; here's the date and time and ticket information that you, as a parent, need to know):

By Todd David Schwartz - LA WEEKLY

3. The Pop Ups - Outside Voices (review): While KWMC's debut was three years in the making, a culmination of a long process, the arrival of Brooklyn's Pop Ups on the kids music scene was totally unexpected. I don't use this word often, but the reaction from some quarters (including, well, this one) was "rapturous," and for good reason. It seamlessly blended preschool-friendly topics with beats and sounds covering the past forty-plus years of popular music and filled in a gap in the kids music scene we didn't even know existed. - Zooglobble

The Pop Ups
Outside Voices
Created by a Brooklyn duo, the whimsical romp pays homage to '80s modern rock (as in synth-heavy "Big Wheel") and '70s-era Sesame Street (the song "F & G" contemplates those letters of the alphabet).

- Time Out New York Kids

The Pop Ups, "Outside Voices." Many of these songs sound like what your parents may have listened to in the '80s: big, echoing music with an electronic piano. But these cool musicians from New York don't limit their sound. Sway like you're on the beach in Jamaica to the reggae beat on "Balloon," slow it down with the soothing and simple "I'm Tired" or dance it up to the funky bass line and popping horn section on "Pasta." This album will not leave you hanging!

by Moira E. McLaughlin - The Washington Post

The Goofiest of Garage Bands

With Its Fuzzy Puppets and Clever Tunes, a Duo Aims for Children's Music Stardom

Not many garage bands perform with puppets and sing about shapes in songs called "Apes in Capes." But the Pop Ups, a pairing of two Brooklyn-based musicians, are a quintessential independent pop group: They have no record deal. They have day jobs to support their music habit. And they really do practice in a garage—a tiny one in Park Slope. The Pop Ups reflect the creativity percolating on the independent children's music scene, as well as the word-of-mouth culture that dominates the niche.

In this market, live performance is essential to any real success. Earlier this week, the Pop Ups—Jason Rabinowitz, 32, and Jacob Stein, 31—were in Brooklyn rehearsing for their first big New York engagement, "PASTA! A Pop Ups Puppet Musical," which runs from Saturday to Oct. 17 at 45 Bleecker: The Green Room. The show is based on songs from the duo's self-produced first album, "Outside Voices."

The men are high-spirited types: Mr. Rabinowitz can speak with a sing-song lilt. And when Mr. Stein performs, he literally bounces up and down with the energy of someone who doesn't yet have children. The vim is on display in one of the show's opening numbers, in which Olivia DiPesto, a blue fuzzy creature operated by Mr. Rabinowitz, dispatches the Pop Ups to Bay Ridge to buy the best tomatoes in Brooklyn. The guys hop on the subway, sing a bit about animals—"The apes on the A-train go 'ooh ohh, ahh ahh'"; "the bees on the B-train go 'buzz buzz buzz'"—and emerge in Bay Ridge.

"How cool is public transportation?' says Mr. Rabinowitz, excitedly. "Take that, L.A.!" adds Mr. Stein.

Like many in the music industry, the stars of children's music are often anointed by large companies like Disney. But since the breakthrough in the last decade of musicians like Dan Zanes (another Brooklynite) and Elizabeth Mitchell, more musicians have been drawn to the genre—and not necessarily because they've failed in adult markets.

"The door is wide open in this kind of music," Mr. Stein said. "We can take the songs in any direction we choose."

For "Apes in Capes," the Pop Ups employ an electro sound that incorporates acoustic elements. "If you changed the lyrics, it could be an adult song," said Mr. Rabinowitz.

The lyrics explain how different shapes can be arranged to depict animals. ("Billy took two triangles, put them in the middle, now it's a nose. Janey drew some ovals, hands and feet and fingers and toes.") As Mr. Rabinowitz plays guitar and sings, Mr. Stein draws the various shapes with a fat magic marker.

As they near the end of the song, the small garage, which remained closed during the rehearsal, is almost vibrating, and it's filled with the powerful odor of dry-erase marker.

"And now we're high!" said Mr. Stein. "Not how most indie-rockers get high," responded Mr. Rabinowitz.

They are having a great time, but it's a difficult genre. To succeed, children's musicians must appeal to moms and dads as well as their kids. And if the kids don't like something, they tend to make their feelings known.

Mr. Stein knows the drill. He is the son of a children's musician, and he's part of his family's band, known as the Rolling Steins. Mr. Rabinowitz, a pianist and guitarist, was raised in the Bronx. After college, he submerged himself in the city's music scene, founding an indie-pop band called the Bloodsugars. (He's a diabetic.)

The musicians met in 2008 when Mr. Stein hired Mr. Rabinowitz to play guitar in his band for a Passover musical. In 2009, the two decided to collaborate on a children's album. They hunkered down at Mr. Rabinowitz's apartment and gave themselves a week to write and record "Outside Voices." Then in May, the duo attended the inaugural KindieFest, a children's music conference held in Brooklyn. They gave their CD to anyone who would take it. On the final day, Mr. Stein approached the conference's co-founder, Bill Childs, and foisted "Outside Voices" upon him.

Mr. Childs, a law professor from Northamtpon, Mass., and a DJ with a children's music radio show, is a tastemaker in the "kindie" world. "No one had ever heard of the Pop Ups before," he said. "And their sound really caught my attention."

He recommended the album to Stefan Shepherd, who writes the influential children's-music blog Zooglobble. In his review, Mr. Shepherd called "Outside Voices" "nothing less than the kids music debut of the year." As more bloggers took note, more DJs began playing Pop Ups tunes. On "Kids Place Live," a children's music channel on SIRIUS XM, the band's song "Pasta" is one of 17 tracks played about four times a day.

The lyrics target both finicky-eating kids and foodie adults: "Gotta have my spaghetti, it wakes up every meal. I get down with fusilli with the zest of lemon peel!"
- The Wall Street Journal


Outside Voices

Pasta on top 13 list at Sirius XM Kid's Place Live program.



THE POP UPS began as a personal challenge for two Brooklyn musicians looking to make something that their friends could feel good about enjoying with their young families. Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein set the bar high when they decided to write and record a really good album in just a week in Jason’s home studio. Calling themselves The Pop Ups, they distributed the demos to friends and were overwhelmed by the positively exuberant responses from both parents and kids. Jason & Jacob took it a step further and self-released their new record and OUTSIDE VOICES was born!
The album was recently recognized with a National Association of Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA) for best music, and is on the TOP TEN 2010 lists of THE WASHINGTON POST, TIME OUT NEW YORK KIDS, THE FIDS AND KAMILY AWARDS, OUT WITH THE KIDS, and ZOOGLOBBLE.
The guys then created PASTA! A Pop Ups Puppet Musical. The show opened to rave reviews and packed houses in LA and NYC. There was a feature article in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL on the show and their NY run has been indefinitely extended at The Soho Playhouse. Their song Pasta was in the TOP 13 on SIRIUS XM KIDS PLACE LIVE FOR OVER 9 WEEKS.