The Harmonica Pocket: Music Review

Do you every find yourself driving in your car alone and singing out loud to your kids music? That's what I was doing this morning on the way to work. When I finally caught myself I didn't turn it off. If fact I listened and sang along all the way to work and all the way home.

The music was Sundrops by The Harmonica Pocket. Since reviewing the new Raffi album we have received a lot of CDs in the mail but none have inspired a review until The Harmonica Pocket CD arrived. In its non-descript brown CD case we thought it was some instrumental harmonica music for us adults. We were wrong.

From the first time in the car CD player The Harmonica Pocket captivated both our kids and ourselves. The lyrics were original, catchy and smart. Our kids love music, but they love good music best and they know when a songwriter is singing to them.

While half of the songs on the album are about the weather we can relate. The musicians of Harmonica Pocket live just south of us, in Puget Sound, Washington. We understand the lyrics in the Sunsong "Sunshine puts me in a happy mood", also "Raindrops won't stop so let's get wet. We'll dry off someday. It's just water anyways" and the optimistic and catchy "It's gotta rain if you want a rainbow".

Our other favourites include "I Love Ukeleles", "Are You A Monster Too?" and "Surprise" which includes a visit from a racoon, turtle, blackbird, eagle, bullfrog and cougar.

Don't buy this album if you don't like catchy music with good lyrics that will get stuck in your head for hours. But I think you should get this album if you are going on a road trip this summer, having a kid party or generally appreciate great children's music.

But don't take my word for it. Here is a link to the band's YouTube page so you can watch the video they made for the Monster Song. Not only did my kids want to watch it over and over again it made me think that making a music video with my kids would be a very fun thing to do.

[ link to full review online ]

Home on the (free) range: Local parents help kids explore risk through music

POSTERFor Keeth Monta Apgar, front man for The Harmonica Pocket, free-range parenting pretty much starts at his back doorstep.

"It's very wild around here," says Apgar, who lives outside of Port Townsend with his wife and bandmate Nala Walla and their 4½-year-old son Montana. "There's a cougar that walks through our property, black bears and bobcats on our property. These are the hazards that are on my mind when I let my kid go out and play."

Apgar embraces the wilds of the outdoors in his parenting and in his music. He has company among some fellow kindie rockers, including Andy Furgeson, a Portland-based kids' musician who performs as Red Yarn. Furgeson's latest album includes a song recounting an afternoon from childhood when he accidently clipped a bird with a BB gun.

"I think there was just a different ethos around giving kids a little more space to explore, to take risks, to learn lessons the hard way sometimes, and not so much fear of the possible outcomes," Furgeson says. "I think that's a harder experience for a kid to come by these days, especially kids living a more urban life."

The Harmonica Pocket and Red Yarn share authentic, potentially risky experiences with children through song. They hope their lyrics help kids confront and deal with challenging issues including death and fear. And they're likely to find a more receptive audience these days as free-range parenting gains support, with at least one website dedicated to more permissive parenting and moms and dads speaking out in favor of the practice.

Critters are a particular inspiration for Furgeson. "Animal life and death is all over the old folk songs. There is a sense of danger, of mortality there. I think it's important that we're candid with our children about those topics," he says. "It's very easy for a kid to be completely removed from where there dinner comes from, or why their pet disappeared."

Andy Furgeson connects kids to nature via song and puppetry.
On Apgar's latest album is an ode to digging and worms and a kid getting dirt under their fingernails.

"This is a subtle piece of the message contained in the music — just getting outside and playing," he says. "It's a lot easier to give your kid the iPad and cook dinner, and that's what we as a society are starting to do more and more."

While free-range parenting has focused on risks like going to the store alone or playing in the forest, listening to music — especially music with adult subject matter — represents a different kind of peril.

"There's a lot of kids' music in the universe, as long as we have a conversation with our children about the content," Apgar says. "I really want my child to hear Paul McCartney's melodies, John Lennon's melodies, Bob Dylan's lyrics and images."

Furgeson is a bit more reserved: "There are subjects that I think do qualify as too adult to discuss with a young child." This is reflected in the organization of his new album, Deep Woods Revival, which is divided into two halves: "For everyone" and "For brave kids and grown-ups."

[ read the full review or check out the digital edition ]


"The Harmonica Pocket features the songwriting, singing, harmonica and guitar playing of Keeth Monta Apgar. Nala Walla joins him with shining vocal harmonies and a hula hoop (?). A fine roster of musicians, including his touring group of Jon Ryser on alto saxophone, and PK on standup bass, also adds to the fun. The CD includes ten original songs, a fine cover of Ari Lesser's "Sun Song," and a sweet rendition of the traditional "You Are My Sunshine." As one might have already surmised, this is a sun and weather inspired album, which was even recorded utilizing solar power.

Outstanding tracks include the breezy country folk of "Sing in the Sun," the Ray Davies-like soul of "Raindrops," and the winsome, harmonica-fueled title track. A child-like sense of innocence pervades Apgar's writing, as heard on tracks such as the playful "Are You A Monster Too?," the gentle hoe down of "Digga Dog Kid," and the innovative animal naming song "Surprise." Perhaps the album's highlight is the witty word play in "I Love Ukuleles," which has such great lines as "I love you-kules, I love you-nicycles, and I love you too."

Other favorites include the lighthearted jazz of "It's Gotta Rain (If You Want a Rainbow)," the lovely transformational tale of "Butterfly Away," and the blusey ending song "Getting Night Now." Apgar's lyrics and music are consistently innovative and pleasing; his voice is a gentle, uncomplicated mix of Donovan, the Incredible String Band, with occasional shadings of Kermit the Frog. The album comes in a nicely designed eco-friendly CD package; the "muchas muchas gracias" section is a who's who of the children's music world. The website sports a plethora of lyrics and stories behind the songs."

[ link to full article online ]

Sundrops by The Harmonica Pocket

"This uplifting collection of 12 acoustic songs provides listeners with nourishing, organically grown music for the soul, capturing joyful moments of life: singing in the sun, splashing in puddles, digging in the dirt, and simply plucking a ukulele or pretending to be a monster.Colorfully packaged with cover art designed by paper cut artist Hannah Viano, Sundrops was produced using solar energy at The Harmonica Pocket's island studio. Guests include Marcy Marxer and Chris Ballew.

Why we like it: Keeth Monta Apgar and Nala Walla, the duo behind the Harmonica Pocket, make a splash here with their warm, friendly tunes. Their laidback charms recall the easy-going manner of Jack Johnson's music. Their bright set of songs, which revolves around the Sundrops title, revel in the joy that can be found in sunny or rainy days."

[ link to full article online ]

THE LEADER - JUNE 24, 2015
Harmonica Pocket lightens up Finnriver Farm with Sundrops

Once upon a time, there was a sunny day. And then there was a rainy day, and the two got mixed up, and it was beautiful.

That's a rough approximation of what came together to inspire Keeth Apgar in creating the songs on The Harmonica Pocket's seventh studio album, "Sundrops."

The dozen songs of ordinary adventures on "Sundrops" feature 10 written by Apgar.

"Songwriting is what I love. That's the juice. That's what I always come back to. It's what I love the most, and I can't stop," said Apgar.

The Harmonica Pocket is a part of the growing kindie rock music scene, but strives to make music that appeals to all ages.

"There is a huge wave of kid music, and we're part of that. We got in early, well, kind of early," said Apgar.

Still, the best feedback, said Apgar, is that you'll find yourself listening to this when the children aren't there.

"I try to write about what I know," said Apgar, following good advice given by his second-grade teacher.

Apgar lives in a secluded spot in the woods of Marrowstone, enjoying life and Northwest weather with his partner, Nala Walla, and their 4-year-old son, Montana.

Being a parent has intensified his music, said Apgar.

"Since Montana, it's gotten a little more real. Now I know how it feels to be a parent, when your child is bleeding or knowing the joy of seeing the stars for the first time. I'm more authentic now."

Life in the woods merges with Apgar's music, whether in his tiny solar-powered recording studio, with a Russian stove to minimize sound interference while keeping warm, or in daily activities.

"Songs may come slowly, or sooner. Some are laborious, some are gifts. I don't know where it's coming from. One song took over a year because it didn't feel natural," he said.

"The record is really uplifting," said Apgar. "I want to let people know there's a value in being messy, nature, outdoor play, being a kid however old you are.

"A lot of times, negative emotions are ignored, but kids experience a spectrum of emotions, just like us," said Apgar.

The "Sundrops" song "Are You a Monster, Too?" explores the monster under the bed.

The monster is there because it's also scared.

"It has a minor key and a heavier beat. It's the most aggressive song on the album."

"The song emerges and reveals itself," said Apgar. "The creative part is the discovery."

"I would love to set aside time just for writing, but that's not how life is now," he noted. "Ideas just come. They arrive, and some are worth pursuing. Sometimes for a few days I'm just focused. I can wake up in the night and write the line I was dreaming. Sometimes it's inspiring; sometimes I get out the rhyming dictionary."

Walla, a dancer and writer, serves as editor as well as member of the band.

"She has a good ear for what's redundant. She can cut out the fat," said Apgar. "Nala is really sensitive to awkward phrasing."

Apgar always listens for the truth of a song.

Recording a song about rain, he thought it would be good to include a rain drum, but it didn't work.

"I leave what makes the song, the strongest thing."

Sometimes that can be awkward, but the thing to do is let it come.

"Sundrops," the title tune on the album, was the last one to come.

"It tied it all up in a bow," recalled Walla. "I was surprised at how quickly it wrote itself.

The Harmonica Pocket's membership varies on the albums, depending on what songs call for.

"We have some really high-caliber players," said Apgar. They include Grammy winners, friends and colleagues from the music world.

He tapped Dean Jones, a Grammy-winning producer, to mix the "Sundrops" album.

"He was thrilled, and did a great job," noted Apgar. "People put love into their performances; they really want to do a good job. I want a good performance, one that will raise the hair up on the back of my neck."

It's not always easy to coordinate with professional musicians, living way out of the music scene, explained Apgar. Most musicians are urban dwellers.

"Out here, we do maybe five shows a year. There are definitely trade-offs, but living in the quiet and green is worth it. The owls, the coyotes are inspiring. Being out here informs the music," said Apgar.

"It's a lot more humane to be home, to be a homebody," he reflected.

The music is very organic and acoustic in The Harmonica Pocket's shows, which range from the formal, with full makeup and costumes at the Seattle Symphony, to the casual, during school visits.

"We rise to the level of the particular show," said Apgar.

The family is the core of The Harmonica Pocket, with other performers filling in as the songs require. Walla acts as a front in the shows.

Apgar has to sit down when he plays, using a foot pedal. He counts it a blessing to have Walla at the forefront, with hula hoops and flags.

"Nala really helps keep the attention," he said. "We try to get children and grownups from the top, do a strong entrance and then hold them for 45 minutes."

The Harmonica Pocket appears at Finnriver Farm & Cidery, 142 Barn Swallow Road, Chimacum, on June 28 to debut "Sundrops" locally. The show starts at 11:30 a.m., and is followed by performances by Joy in Mudville, the Unexpected Brass Band and Rhythm Planet. Admission is $5 per person or $12 per family.

The Harmonica Pocket can also be seen and heard in the "Sing-a-ling" on the fourth Friday of each month, January through October, at 10:30 a.m. at the YMCA, 1925 Blaine St., Port Townsend. There is a $6 drop-in fee for the Y, but no one is turned away, explained Apgar.

"It's a parent-child musical experience," said Apgar. "It keeps me in touch with kids. It keeps my chops up."

Life in the woods, sunny or rainy, is good.

"I love making the albums, and I'll absolutely keep doing that as long as I'm breathing," said Apgar.

[ read the full article online ]

Dads Who Rock! Father's Day Q&A featuring Keeth Monta Apgar of The Harmonica Pocket

"Keeth Monta Apgar, master songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the Northwest-based group, The Harmonica Pocket, delivers rich vocals in harmony with his wife, Nala Walla.

Recently, The Harmonica Pocket released their fourth third full-length children's album called Sundrops. The recording of the album, as well as previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington, where they live.

Prior to the release of their third album, Apple Apple, Keeth and Nala welcomed their first child, Montana, into the world. As a result, many of the songs reflect the experiences and bond they have as a family while also celebrating the natural world that surrounds them on their little island.

Below Keeth shares his thoughts on Father's Day, and how he is inspired through creative play and his 4-year-old's wonderfully magical imagination.

Stay tuned for a new video from The Harmonica Pocket, and keep up with the band through their official site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can listen to and purchase Sundrops through iTunes, and Amazon."

KIDS CAN GROOVE: What are you planning to do for Father's Day?
KEETH APGAR: Kick back. Hang with my family. Eat some food. Play a little, dream a little, live a little.

KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?
KA: For me the best thing about being a father is getting down on my belly and playing. I love entering the magical, non-linear world of kids and there is nothing more magical than a 4 year-old's imagination. This creative play is very inspiring to me as an artist and as a grownup.

KCG: What is the hardest thing about being a dad (especially if you are a touring artist)?
KA: As I type, my son Montana approaches me and says "What are you doing, Papa?" I show him the computer screen with multiple windows open and point to the day's to-do list. He looks it all over briefly and says "Work is play," as he heads out the screen door. Yup.

The hardest thing about being a father is carving out time to be with my family, to be present and enjoy the moment and not be thinking about the varied tasks screaming for my attention. It's maddening and I know I do not hold a monopoly on this aspect of parenthood. Kids are only young for a short time and then they're off to live their own lives. I'm definitely aware that the childhood clock is ticking, and want to be as present as I can manage.

KCG: How often do you play music/sing with your son?
KA: In our tiny, one-room house we have instruments everywhere. They hang on the walls and are overflowing various baskets and crates, ready to bust out at any moment. I've found when musical instruments are handy, they get played the most. We sing and bang and toot almost everyday—some of these improvisations end up turning into songs on our albums.

KCG: Do your kids join you during performances?
KA: Our son was on stage in utero. After he was born we would tour with a nanny who would hang with him during shows.

One day, just after his 2nd birthday, the nanny bailed on us two hours before the show. When we arrived at the venue I set up an extra mic for him and set his ukulele on a chair. Twenty minutes before showtime he woke up from his nap and I told him he was going to play a show with us. He walked right up to his chair and sat down, ready to play. We laughed and told him we still had some time to use the potty and get ready for the show. He rocked it, and has been on stage with us ever since.

[ read the full article online ]

The Harmonica Pocket's Sundrops

"Here's a CD I know you'll love, it's full of beautiful, all-natural, sunshiny happiness. I know that sounds sappy but really, it's true. Harmonica Pocket has released a new album, Sundrops, and it's just beautiful. The music is light and airy, a spring day with the animals exploring, the veggies sprouting, and muddy hugs all around.

Infused in the nature-loving songs are songs of family love, forgiveness, and resiliancy. But my favourite song is easily track 8, I Love Ukuleles with all it's fun play on words and word parts. This album will have a song for everyone in your family and inspire you all to get outdoors and enjoy each other and nature. So what if it rains? As they remind is in track 3, It's Gotta Rain (If You Want A Rainbow.)"

[ read the full review ]

I Love Ukuleles by The Harmonica Pocket

"Like the title of the song says, I do love ukuleles, having just started taking lessons as an adult–much to the amusement of my three children. Though my favorite thing about The Harmonica Pocket's I Love Ukuleles is the clever wordplay throughout this sweet, old-timey sounding love song.

From their new album Sundrops, CMP favorites The Harmonica Pocket start what sounds like a typical "I love you" ditty before turning each "you" into a "u" word, such as ukuleles, unicorns, UFO sightings and even unanimous decisions. It's all in good fun though it takes a tender turn. Start practicing now, and the kids can sing it to dad next Sunday for Father's Day.

Download a copy of The Harmonica Pocket's I Love Ukuleles which features the ukulele playing of Marcy Marxer of the acclaimed folk music duo Cathy & Marcy and kindie musician Johnny Bregar on marimba."

[ read the full review online ]

On Heavy Rotation: Harmonica Pocket's Solar Powered new album

"The delightful, Parents' Choice Award-winning duo the Harmonica Pocket is back with their solar-powered seventh album, Sundrops. Keeth Apgar and Nala Walla sing of sunshine, raindrops, rainbows and more simple joys of childhood with 12 new, sunny songs.

Each song on Sundrops is an acoustic treat, evoking the warmth of the sunshine on your face and the cool mud between your toes. "Raindrops," a charming melody certain to be stuck in your head for days, is an ode to a carefree romp in the rain. "Are You a Monster Too?" and "Digga Dog Kid" are upbeat songs that encourage imagination and getting dirty outside, and "I Love Ukuleles" is a clever, laid-back ditty that will have kids giggling at every verse.

If you're looking for a sunny soundtrack for summer afternoons, take Sundrops along on the next family road trip or picnic at the playground."

[ read the full review online ]

Road Trippin'

"This ode to the warm, glowing ball in the sky could only be written by Pacific Northwest residents who've endured a long, wet winter. Most of these sweet, acoustic songs are in praise of warm sunshine, including the title track, plus Sing in the Sun, and a minor-key arrangement of the enduring standard You Are My Sunshine. Play this album to help excited kiddos to wind down after a busy summer day."

[ read the full review online ]

Itty-Bitty Review: Sundrops - The Harmonica Pocket

"The Seattle-area duo The Harmonica Pocket (songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Keeth Monta Apger and his wife Nala Walla) have always been led by an animating interest in the natural world, but never quite as fully as on their fourth family album Sundrops, which is officially released today. The theme -- sunshine and rain -- is a pretty genius one (especially for a Pacific Northwest band) and the dozen tracks here explore (mostly) the beauty of both sun and rain.

The album starts off particularly strongly -- the country-folk of "Sing In the Sun," followed by the pure pop goodness of "Raindrops," which features fellow Northwest musician and co-producer Johnny Bregar on the Hammond B3. That song, with the lyric "We'll dry off someday / It's just water anyway," and "It's Gotta Rain (If You Want a Rainbow)," give you a good sense of Apgar's songwriting attitude. (They also feature the small band Apgar and Bregar brought in to fill out the sound.) Much of what follows is also an enjoyable, amiable folk-pop shuffle through the natural world -- I particularly liked "Digga Dog Kid" (a duet with Chris Ballew AKA Caspar Babypants, who knows his way around songs about being outside) and their reworking of "You Are My Sunshine," featuring many new lyrics. I didn't like "Are You a Monster Too?," which didn't seem to fit in at all amongst the sun and rain songs, but since I greatly adored "I Love Ukuleles," a song featuring wordplay around the phrase "I love you..." (and Marcy Marxer on ukulele as well, natch) perhaps I just didn't like "Monster," period.

The 40-minute Sundrops is most appropriate for listeners ages 3 through 7. Its mellow sound and open-hearted lyrics will make a nice accompaniment for both rainy afternoons and sunny Sunday mornings. Recommended.

[ read the full review online ]

Review: Sundrops by The Harmonica Pocket

"Welcome to another installment of my semi-regular music review series. As I've written previously I am on a quest to find kids music that won't drive grownups crazy. I wasn't raised with kids music. My mother decided she'd rather hear The Sound of Music 5,000 times over anything that had been marketed to kids in the 1980s, so I was raised on a steady diet of show tunes and The Beatles. Since becoming a dad my kids have been listening to a lot of mid-90s rock and hip hop. As they've gotten older and started singing along I've realized that I actually would like for them to listen to something with more appropriate themes for their ages. Still, I can't go full Disney. I knew I had to find something else to bridge the gap between Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Cold Hard Bitch, so I started exploring kindie rock albums. As always the reviews are written from the perspective of someone who wants to help you find music that your kids will enjoy and that won't make you want to stab out your ear drums.

Today's offering is "Sundrops" by The Harmonica Pocket. Musically the album offers your typical guitars, drums and violins that seem to be staples of kids albums, but is also delightfully arranged with walls of horns that are energetic without being overly aggressive. Comparisons can be fraught, but I'd say the album sounds a bit like Belle and Sebastian for kids.

The album emotionally arcs like a summer day, starting light and lively, sauntering through the afternoon, and then winding down with a lullaby. Within this arc it explores three sets of themes tied to common childhood experiences. The first four songs (Sing In the Sun, Raindrops, It's Gotta Rain -If You Want a Rainbow-, Sun Song) are about the weather and its effects on the world and our moods.

These opening tracks remind me of the kind of songs we would have sat around singing at my hippie Berkeley preschool. If you close your eyes and listen to Raindrops you can see kids at Esalen dressed in white linens and daisy chain crowns dancing in a circle. This is a great image for me, full of the freedom and thrill of discovery inherent in, "the free-range childhood" the artists (and I) remember in the late 1970s and 1980s. You could imagine these songs getting mainstream airplay in the late 1960s.

The only miss in the first four is It's Gotta Rain, which my wife and I agreed is "aggressively kiddie." It's Gotta Rain is lyrically repetitive, and front-man Keeth Apgar's vocals involve the common, hey-I'm-singing-to-kids intonation that I'm specifically trying to avoid when searching out music to listen to with my kids. That said, It's Gotta Rain has a beautiful melody and arrangement behind the vocals.

Parents who can power through It's Gotta Rain will be rewarded by the next four songs, which touch on near universal themes of childhood. Are You a Monster Too? on its surface about an insecure monster, explores deeper themes of childhood social anxieties. I can see myself name checking the song when talking with my kids about host of potential issues, from understanding the behavior of others, to accepting our own insecurities.

Digga Dog Kid and Surprise are up beat celebrations of childhood exploration and flights of fancy. I don't want to oversell Ukelele, but it's our favorite song on the album. The joy in the song is in the discovery so I'll leave it at that. (I know, I sound like the endings of the book reports that Ramona Quimby hated most, but seriously you have to hear the song for yourself in order to love it.)

The album winds down with the perfectly toned, melancholy yet peppy Sun Drops, a mellow cover of You are My Sunshine, and the sleepily bluesy It's Getting Night Now. Also included in the wind-down final third of the album is Butterfly Away, another beautifully arranged song that misses somewhat when it comes to the lyrics. In the person of a caterpillar dreaming of its future Apgar croons, "I'll be beautiful someday." It makes me want to hug the little caterpillar and tell it, "No no buddy, you're beautiful right now." I can see the message of the song being in line with the "It gets better" philosophy, and there's a good chance it can teach kids about the solace of being a late bloomer, but it's still not my favorite.

In the end "Sundrops" is a fun album that adults will enjoy, as will their kids. The songs are upbeat, educational, and very well arranged and produced. The music and instrumentation is on par with any current alt or folk rock album. I definitely recommend it for parents with young (pre-tween) kids."

[ read the full review online ]

DADDY MOJO - MAY 26, 2015
The Harmonica Pocket gets immediate love from the Kindie lot

"When I first heard The Harmonica Pocket I must have been in a bad mood. Oh joy, another downbeat collection of songs about nature, the sun and rain. Break out the patchouli oil kids. I listened to the entire CD in the car with the kids and thought nothing of it until they chimed in from the back seat that they wanted to hear it again. "You want to hear it again?", I asked. Yes, yes they did and they continued to love this release, specifically songs 1-9. As Sundrops has 12 songs on it that's a very good hit ratio for a pair of discriminating children.

The Harmonica Pocket gets immediate love from the #Kindie lot

The second time I heard Sundrops from The Harmonic Pocket I started to tolerate some of the songs and like Sing In The Sun, I Love Ukuleles and Are You a Monster too? The third time I fell full on into the release and liked most of the songs and really liked It's Gotta Rain and a couple others.

Our children continued to like the entire release, yelling up songs by their favorite number, usually 1,3, 5 or 7. The odd numbers are just a coincidence, I think.

My initial impression of The Harmonica Pocket being too folksy was incorrect. Certainly their music is kindie and lots of that does involve acoustic elements. However, what they do well is mix up the instruments and the pacing of the songs.

What The Harmonica Pocket really accomplish on the songs on Sundrops are the harmonies. It was on our second listen that we noticed that. Granted it was probably on the first listen that our kids heard the harmonies and that's why they liked it.

The music is fun and it really makes you smile. This is one that passes the Christmas music test with flying colors. You will find yourself listening to The Harmonica Pocket when the kids aren't in the car and loving it."

[ read the full article online ]

The Harmonica Pocket ~ Sundrops CD

"Summer weather is finally here, and we are so happy to have warm, sunny days to enjoy. In the sunny spirit of summer is the third and newest CD from The Harmonica Pocket, "Sundrops", and this CD is sure to put you in a great mood!

The Harmonica Pocket is a medley of players, instruments, and sounds.. but one thing is for sure, this CD is enjoyable for all ages, and it has a feel-good vibe to it. As I find myself with very little free time, I rely on music to be uplifting, and that is exactly how I would describe "Sundrops". I love that this is a collection of songs that the whole family can enjoy.

This CD resonates with me, and I love the theme of being youthful, having fun, and "getting dirt under your fingernails". Listening to this CD, I picture being outside on a beautiful day, planting the garden, running around on the playground, just enjoying the day and having a good time. "Sundrops" actually brings me back to my own childhood, a simpler time and a life unplugged, and makes me want to strive a little more for those simple moments of joy just soaking up the sun or rain or whatever the day brings you."

[ read the article online ]

CD Review: Sundrops

"The Harmonica Pocket has a new album, Sundrops, released just yesterday! Parents who value all things organic, outdoors and playful should get to know the work of Keeth Apgar and Nala Walla, Parents' Choice Gold Award-winning musicians from the Puget Sound. Their delightful (and sometimes deliciously eccentric!) music is always joyful and uplifting, and SUNDROPS is no different!

This new CD, produced by solar power, hosts 12 acoustic songs celebrating outdoor and creative-free play... they remind us that a free-range childhood is memorable and beneficial for our children. Their music celebrates this value, one that many of our readers share!"

CD Review: Sundrops

"What sweet music! We have enjoyed this CD at home, dancing in our loft, in the car, on long trips, and just for general happiness time! Some of our favorites are It's Gotta Rain (If You Want a Rainbow), Are You a Monster Too?, and of course, You Are My Sunshine. The music is child like, while still enjoyable for adults. It is happy, upbeat, and tells beautiful stories. The instrumentation is impressive. Make sure to read the CD jacket which tells you the plethora of unique instruments used.

And even more impressive is the fact that it was produced using solar power! Keeth and Nala are proud of the "free-range childhood" they provide for their son and obviously want the rest of us to get out there and enjoy the rain, sun, flowers, dirt, and butterflies! Believe me, you will want to run straight into nature and soak up some of that solar power after listening to this beautiful collection!"

[ read the full article online ]


"[My daughter] Noi won't turn this CD off. Honestly.. I'm completely fine with it. This is a fantastic group from the PNW. This new album Sundrops is AMAZING. I really enjoy Are You A Monster Too. For myself music marks a moment in my life I think this album will be part of our soundtrack for summer. Make sure it's a part of yours as well. Your kids will love it."

[ read the full article online ]

MR. JEFF 2000 - MAY 7, 2015
Here Comes Sundrops from Harmonica Pocket

"Those wacky kids, The Harmonica Pocket, are back with some nice mellow Earth-loving music for other kids with their third CD, SUNDROPS.

Even though Earth Day has come and gone, Keeth Apgar and partner Nala Walla are raising their son with lots of outdoor time. And you know what that means – no, not bug spray and sunburn. Uplifting, empowering songs about the positivity of nature! And if you can't get down with that, well then you just woke up on the wrong side of the planet. And it was recorded with solar power, to boot!

Produced by Apgar and Johnny Bregar and mixed by the omnipresent Dean Jones, SUNDROPS runs the gamut from "Sing in the Sun" to "Sun Song" to "You Are My Sunshine" to the title track. Catching on to the theme? On the other hand, there's also "Raindrops, "It's Gotta Rain (If You Want a Rainbow)," and "I Love Ukeleles." Wait a minute, what do ukeleles have to do with the rain? Well, have you ever seen somebody upset playing a uke in the rain? There you go.

SUNDROPS is stuffed with appearances from other children's artists such as Chris Ballew (Caspar Babypants), Marcy Marxer (of Cathy & Marcy), Alex Mitnick (of the Kaleidoscope Band), and more. Bottom line, rain or shine, the Harmonica Pocket wants to hit your child's musical sweet spot and put a summery song in their ear."

[ read the full article online ]

The Harmonica Pocket releases Sundrops

"My oldest daughter recently told me during our dinner questions (we are still using the fab Word Teasers for Small Frys for dinner table talk) that her favorite song was "You Are My Sunshine". She then immediately broke into song. Then I immediately broke into song. Then I said, after we giggled through exhaustion, that "hey, let's hear a new version by The Harmonica Pocket!" I was getting ready to review, Sundrops, for its new release and it seemed like the perfect time. So, we turned up the music and danced in our chairs as we ate. Brooke (and I) have been hooked on the album ever since!

The Harmonica Pocket is a Parents' Choice God Award-winning duo, Keeth Apgar with partner Nala Walla, who are already stars of the Seattle family music scene. They are releasing their newest album on May 19 through Burnside Distribution and it is just in time for summer. The thing I love about this album is that it is SO uplifting with words like, "it's gotta rain if you want a rainbow" sung in a young Billy Corgan-esque way (IMO) by Apgar that makes you want to dance. Sunshine does put me in a good mood but raindrops are also fun when you can splash in puddles and dig in the mud. "We will all dry off someday and it's just water anyway." As you can see, this album is full of fun quotes that make you feel happy and positive. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Sundrops is sprinkled (see what I did there?!? Ha) with lots of special guests and wonderful musicians that make it that much more magical. Johnny Bregar (check out his cool album, Hootenanny) co-produced and performs on the album, and Grammy Award-winning Hudson Valley artist Dean Jones made the final mixes. Special guests include the always fabulous Chris Ballew (AKA Caspar Babypants – check out a lot of my past reviews!), Johnny Bregar, Marcy Marxer, Alex Mitnick and Simon Lynge which creates a beautiful explosion of sound. Even Apgar and Walla's young son, Montana, adds sweet vocal bits on "Are You A Monster Too?" and "I Love Ukuleles." Most of the summery Sundrops songs are original compositions, except for the previously mentioned cover of the classic song "You Are My Sunshine" and "Sun Song" (by spoken-word artist Ari Lesser). Truly a beautiful fresh breath of sun-shiny filled air that I'm sure we'll be singing all summer.

Sundrops is the third all-ages recording from The Harmonica Pocket, active members of the acclaimed Seattle area Kindiependent collective of family-centric musicians. Lead by Keeth Apgar with partner Nala Walla, the duo get so much inspiration from their outdoor playtime with their 4-year-old son, Montana.

[ read the full interview online ]

Kids' music with charm and wit

If you're a Port Townsend parent of a child younger than 10 or so, you may have seen the Harmonica Pocket perform around town – at the library, at a recent local event such as the Jefferson County Farm Tour or Quilcene Fair, or maybe even at the Ajax Cafe.

If you haven't heard this kids' band, you're missing out.
The Harmonica Pocket serves up whimsical, creative children's music, without the saccharine or crazy-making repetitiveness you might associate with the genre.

"Their music is clever, and there's something magical and comforting about them," says Jean-Marie Tarascio, youth services librarian for the Port Townsend Public Library.

Coming to PT

Keeth Apgar is the songwriter behind the Harmonica Pocket. He started out in 1999 playing indie rock on his own. He eventually added a drummer; and, since then, a string of players have performed with the band.

The most important of those band members has been singer Nala Walla.
The couple met in 2001 at a wedding in Port Townsend. Since then, Apgar's heart – and the band – have been firmly rooted here.

When asked why he and Walla chose to make their home base in Port Townsend, Apgar pointed out the community's special qualities.

"Port Townsend has a lot of really cool stuff happening musically," he says. "It's definitely at the end of a very long road, so if you're coming here, you gotta know you're coming here."

Apgar and Walla now form the core of the Harmonica Pocket and play smaller shows on their own. For larger venues and for recording – which they do in their solar-powered home studio – the couple taps a long list of talented musicians with a wide range of backgrounds.

"The recorded material definitely reflects the range of musicians we work with," says Apgar. "If we're recording something with a Jamaican influence or a bluesy thing, I'll bring in players who can help make that sound."

From rock to rock-a-bye

Apgar has followed a surprisingly well-trodden path, from rocker to rock-a-bye crooner.

The Harmonica Pocket has produced six albums; three are indie rock, and three feature kids' music. The band has found success in a genre known as "kindie" – which blends independent rock with kid-friendly themes – and recently won a Parents' Choice Gold Award for its CD titled "Apple Apple."

Many kindie artists have their roots in grown-up rock music, but then turn their attention to kids' music when they start families of their own. However, the Harmonica Pocket was playing children's music well before Apgar and Walla's son, Montana, came along, almost three years ago.

"Children's music has been around for a long time, and there's been an old folk collection songbook to pull from for decades," Apgar says about kindie. "But, there's been a crescendo, a new genre that's been born. Without really trying to, I merged with it."

It isn't an exaggeration to say that Apgar stumbled into kids' music. In 2004, he and Walla were asked to stand in for a band that wasn't able to appear at a preschool performance.

"It went surprisingly well, although we didn't really know what we were doing," says Apgar. "We had put some thought into it, but we were still going in blind."

After that first preschool gig, a lightbulb went off for Apgar. "This is an opportunity," he remembers thinking.

Bag of tricks

Apgar and Walla have a low-key bag of tricks they use to wrangle their sometimes wild preschool audiences – props, puppets, hula hoops, to name a few.

One attention-getter uses potty humor – always a winner with kids.
"If things are getting a little bit nutty, we hit 'em with 'Diaperman,'" says Apgar.

The duo uses brightly colored puppets and a clever storytelling song to re-focus the kids' attention.

"This is something we need to do, given that we have a gentler, acoustic sound," Apgar says. "If we had electric guitars and a loud drummer, we could just turn it up.

Children's librarian Tarascio agrees. "Some other performers use a lot of flash to keep kids interested," she says. "Instead, these two just relate to them, and the kids respond."

The interaction between the performers and audience is genuine.

"I truly enjoy hanging with kids," says Apgar. "I think it's eye-opening and inspiring to hear about their world."

A family band

Audiences at the Harmonica Pocket's recent shows will have noticed the band's littlest member, Montana, on stage.

"I'm discovering that we are a family band," says Apgar, somewhat surprised.
As his mom serenades the crowd, Montana sits contentedly on her lap, occasionally helping with props and puppets.

"It's something I'd like to cultivate with him, as long as he thinks it's fun," says Apgar. "By the same token, I don't want to put him to work. He's a kid, and I want him to just enjoy music and see that it's a beautiful way to spend your time."

Fatherhood has undoubtedly affected Apgar's songwriting. "Now that I'm writing kids' songs, I have opportunities every day – if I'm present and looking for them – for new songs," he says. When asked how his music has changed since he became a father, Apgar says, "Overall, the songs are more tender. But not entirely. I still love silliness."

In writing music for children, it seems Apgar has found his calling. "I've always loved writing songs that play with sounds and images in a nonlinear way," he says. "If you think about it, that's what being a kid is all about: playfulness."

[ read the full interview online ]

Interview: Polishing Apples and Tunes with The Harmonica Pocket

Keeth Apgar is a veteran of the indie folk-pop scene. These days, with his group Harmonica Pocket, he's at the forefront of the Pacific Northwest's burgeoning kindie scene. Kindie is indie music for kids.

Of the boom, Apgar says, laughing, "I don't know why that's happening now, there's been kids forever. There's a lot of new things happening in music technology, connecting people in new ways. And the ways that people are parenting in this day and age is changing a little bit. Parents who are tapped into this kindie music world, they're more concerned with surrounding their children with music and art. That's a real good thing. They're seeking out music that's appropriate for their kids.

"A lot of musicians or songwriters will suggest in conversation that it's limiting to write for kids. I've found the complete opposite. Obviously there are subjects we're not going to discuss in a children's song. But it opens up a lot of opportunities to explore new subjects," he explains.

"There's a song on our album, 'Ladybug One,' called 'Four Spaces,' and it's about the four spaces between your toes. It's a very simple, sweet, short little song. There's a lot of wonderful subjects to discover as you hang out with kids, talk with them, ask them questions and see what their world is like."

Apgar says he feels that it's important to fashion songs that will also please parents and teachers.

"Having layers to the songwriting really helps. 'The Simpsons' had an additional layer of writing that was clearly over the heads of the kids, aimed at the grown-ups watching. So I try to have multiple layers to my storytelling. That's a key difference between kids music in this day and age and kid music of 20, 30 years ago.

"I love images, words that paint a picture in your mind. That's something that I go for, whether it's a kids song or a grown-up song."

Seattle-based Harmonica Pocket is playing California for the first time. Their dates include a free family show at Outer Space in Los Altos. They'll be performing as a duo -- Keeth Apgar and his wife, Nala Walla. Guitar, ukulele and vocal harmonies are the music's main ingredients.

Apgar says, "Nala, my partner and wife, is a hula hoop and dance artist, so she sprinkles in all sorts of really fun stuff."

The show they're performing is called "A Is For Apple." It features many songs from their newest release "Apple Apple." Among the album's clever, catchy highlights are "Diaperman," "Monkey Love," "Bare Feet," "Apple Eyes" and "Supermoon."

"I wouldn't call it a concept album," says Apgar, "but there is a very loose thread. Many of them are nature-based tunes, songs that reflect on playing outside or growing food or eating food, things like that."

Interactivity is part of the show's design. "We try to find creative ways to really engage the kids, and their grown-ups, to get involved, to sing along with the tunes, to count, participate in call-and-response. We want it to be fun for everybody. We want to enjoy it ourselves, because, when the musicians on stage are smiling and laughing, it makes it more enjoyable for the audience."

Originally from New York, Apgar, 37, was attracted to glam and Van Halen in his youth. But he was drawn to the softer tunes, the power ballads on those records. That grew into an appreciation for acoustic music.

In high school, he began writing songs, admiring the quirky tunes of David Lowery (Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker).

Harmonica Pocket began in 1999. The lineup varies, often featuring drums and bass, sometimes a saxophonist.

Their excursion into children's music began as a happy accident, Apgar says. "In 2004, I was visiting a neighbor, and she was having tea with a friend. She said, 'Oh, Keeth, you play music, come sit down and have a cup of tea with us.' This acquaintance was the director of a preschool and they had recently had a cancellation of one of their performers, so they needed a sub on short notice. They asked if I would do it. So I said, 'Sure.' I didn't really know what it was all about, but Nala and I assembled, as best we could, what we thought would be fun and interesting. And that was our first kids show.

"After the show, the school director came up and said, 'Wow! That was the best 60-minute performance we've ever had here. You guys are amazing!' We just shook her hand. But on the way home, we were laughing, going, 'Really?' We just put a bit of thought into it and went out and had fun."

Now occasionally teaching music, Apgar had worked in a preschool for a while.

"That part of my life, my childhood, was beautiful and magical, so it was a big pleasure to revisit that time, to get down on the carpet and play with bugs and play monster. I remember coming home from those early days, working at that preschool, and saying to Nala, 'I can't believe they're paying me to do this! It's so fun.'"

He finds that education works both ways. "I learn so much, not only basic stuff, but big personal observations about myself and how I treat other people. It's definitely not a one-way street, being a teacher."

Harmonica Pocket continues to perform adult shows, as well. "I decided a few years ago, when things started getting more serious with kids music, that I would just keep one band, basically like They Might Be Giants. They have their kids material and they have their grown-up material. And it's all released under the same band name. Just because I'm an indie artist and totally DIY operation, I decided it was too much to manage two brands."

Apgar and Walla live on a tiny island, 90 minutes outside of Seattle. "We have a big garden," he says. "I've planted a lot of trees. We get rainwater off our roof. We have a little solar electric system."

They also have a 2½-year-old son, Montana. Apgar says, "I'm not a scientist, but I know that the brain, in all of its developmental stages, really responds to music, the sounds. I notice it a lot with my own son. When he was in utero, we were playing, taking time to actually play him music a lot while he was in the belly, and also after he was born. And he just loves it. He has a ukulele and a little electric guitar. Music is just a part of his life. It's a creative way for kids to play, to actually have their hands on an instrument. Toddlers are famous for wanting to use their hands. And I think it's great to put an instrument in the hands, really, of any age human being.

"For kids, it's a great way for them to spend their time and work on muscle coordination, learning chords on a piano or guitar fretboard and just experimenting."

Apgar says, "We hear from parents how a song or an album of ours has become a part of their family's life, for instance, part of the bedtime routine. That blows me away, gives me chills, leaves me with a sparkly feeling. That's a sweet thing for any artist to hear, that their music had made an impact on somebody."

[ read the full interview online ]

Interview: Chat with Keeth Apgar from The Harmonica Pocket

Keeth Apgar, front man, master songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for The Harmonica Pocket, is a deep thinker and highly talented songwriter. In addition to Keeth, The Harmonica Pocket features a regular group of folks, one of which includes partner Nala Walla, who delivers rich harmonic vocals throughout the album.

Last year, The Harmonica Pocket released their third full-length children's album called Apple Apple. The recording of the album, as well as previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington, where they live.

Prior to the release of Apple Apple, Keeth and Nala welcomed their first child into the world. As a result, many of the songs reflect the experiences and bond they have as a family while also celebrating the natural world that surrounds them on their little island.

Apple Apple is a beautiful album that will leave you feeling like someone just whispered a gentle lullaby in your ear. To learn more about Apple Apple take a peek at my review.

Intrigued by Keeth's thoughtful songwriting and musicality, I was very happy to have the chance to talk with him about the album, his approach to songwriting, family life and apples.

KCG: Was music something that you always kind of enjoyed being involved with? Was there a particular path that led to where you are now, musically?

KA: Well, it wasn't my path. My Dad was an athletic director at a public school district so we were really into sports as kids. Slowly, I was getting more and more interested in music and kept asking my parents to get me a guitar. So, they rented a guitar and got me some lessons where I learned basic stuff, like how to tune it, for example. Then, in high school, I just started playing and writing some songs. We'd come home from school and try to figure out guitar solos on a Metallica or Van Halen record and play along with them. But it wasn't like I grew up in a family with jazz on the radio or Beatles records on. I really don't know why it happened.

KCG: Maybe it was meant to be. How has music shaped or influenced you throughout the years?

KA: I definitely connect with it now and I really encourage parents and kids to embrace it, especially if a child is expressing an interest in [playing music] because it has given me such an anchor in my life. Through the good and the bad, [music] helps me process things that have happened in my life to this day. For example, if someone dies, a pet dies or if something beautiful happens, [music] provides a way to spend time with that [occurrence], focus on it and write about it, process it and help release it. So, it's really a powerful thing for me, and that's one reason why I like playing music with and for kids. I want to share and introduce that process to them.

KCG: Do you think your perspective has changed since your son, Montana, has come into your life?

KA: Most definitely. I had a job in a preschool around 2002. During that time, I was with kids of different ages, just getting to know them, figuring out how they think, what they talk about and stuff like that. I really enjoyed that work and that time with them. But, even though I thought that I really knew what it was like to hang with kids, having a kid of your own is such a different level because you know your child so much more deeply. You're with them all the time; through the tears, through the poo, through the laughs.

I think that this album reflects some of that. Some of the songs on Apple Apple are informed by me having my first child. There's a song called "Monkey Love," which reflects how people, or monkeys in this case, come together and form a family. "Little Little Baby" is kind of an obvious example. Another one is "Reflections," which I wrote while I was helping to get Montana to sleep one day. We were just walking and humming and I realized that being a parent is so intimate. Lots of kisses and hugs. It struck me deeply and I thought it was important to put that song onto a family album.

KCG: I think it's interesting that you used Chris Ballew (Caspar Babypants) as Monkey 2. His voice complements the song very well.

KA: I was super psyched when Chris [Ballew] was up for singing on "Monkey Love." I thought he was the perfect monkey to be in our "family." Chris has become a friend and I really like what he does a lot. He's a great guy and he works so hard. I've been wanting to do something with him for a while.

KCG: We are big fans of Chris's music as well. On "Monkey Love," the harmonies between the 3 singers add alot of depth to the song. It really brings the monkey family to life.

KA: I really like vocal harmony, too. That's something that really excites me. It's kind of a mystery. I studied music theory and I technically know how it all works, but then you step back and take away all the literacy and nomenclature, and the way we describe it in the western world and go "Wow, why do voices pull against each other in this pleasing way when you create vocal harmonies?" It just blows me away! As a result, all of my records are full of vocal harmony. In the case of "Monkey Love," I played with 3 different singers, singing harmonies, as opposed to myself singing most of the harmonies.

KCG: I also noticed that when Monkey 1 and Monkey 2 are introduced, they are accompanied by the sounds or sticks banging, and then when Nala comes in (as Monkey 3), and you all become a family, the background changes and there are accents like the sounds of crashing cymbals in celebration of this coming together. Was that arrangement intentional? Do you use instruments as a way to accentuate a song, or as additional "voices" in some ways.

KA: Yeah, definitely. There's all kinds of different approaches to producing a song. Something I really love to do is have a dynamic build, giving the song a sense of growing. Maybe beginning small with simpler sounds and simpler productions, generally having less elements going on, and then slowly introducing things one by one. The song, "AppleApple," is a good example of that, or "Afraid of Heights," where things start very simply, melodies are introduced and then it starts to build, and, in the case of "Apple Apple," turn into a drunken circus where there's kind of a lot going on and laughter. So that building is something that I really love to do in producing the songs.

Another layer that I like is the twist. I really like to have some character development in some of my songs. Again, "Afraid of Heights," is an example of that or "Waiting Always Takes a Long Time," where you have this character, and sometimes it's me or there's this little birdie in a tree, and things start happening. Maybe there's a conflict or there's some trouble there and something happens in the song where it's used to change the perspective. The turning point of the song, what I call the bridge, is where something happens, and when you get to the other side of the bridge, you go back to the chorus or the repeating line and [the song] means something a little bit different now. So, in "Afraid of Heights," when the bird is born and she's in her nest, she looks down and thinks, "Oh my goodness I'm so high up, this is terrible!" Then, suddenly, she looks up and sees the sky for the first time and realizes "Oh, the possibilities!" And it's then that she opens up her wings, flies into the sky and exhales. The timing for the song "Afraid of Heights," is in 4/4, where you're counting up to 4. For the bridge, the song goes into 3/4 time just to demonstrate that something new is happening, and it's really subtle.

KCG: There's a personification element with some of the subjects in the songs on Apple Apple. But, I think that taps into the imagination of a younger audience. I spend hours sometimes just being a puppeteer or making any inanimate object talk and immediately, my daughter feels comfortable and excited to explore in this type of play.

KA: I think that comes from just being around kids. Just like you said, and from what I've observed, that's how they play. The song that comes to mind on Apple Apple is "Apple Eyes." There is an apple tree in our yard that drops so many apples in the Fall and they are so delicious. Every morning, Montana and I would go out and bring a basket with us to the tree. We shook the tree and picked up any apples that had fallen overnight, and we just talked to this tree. We said "Hi" to the tree and a lot of other things. I realized, in doing that, it was really creating an awareness of the natural world for him. That this tree, for example, is a part of our little neighborhood community; it's a part of our family, in a way. To look at a tree that way is very different from just going, "Oh, I'm gonna go out and this tree is just dropping all these really great apples, and we'll go steal them and bake pies and share them with our friends." It's just a different way of looking at the world. It was a discovery for me to start personifying things in my daily life and just seeing the relationship that can develop.

With this song, "Apple Eyes," all this stuff that I was just describing, all came after that song. That song just kind of happened. A couple of lines came from that song, simple little melodies and I realized that I didn't know where the song was going and I didn't really care. It was that discovery. So, I made the apples' eyes close and things like that. And, that's an example of a song that's not super linear, you know. You don't need to track the song from the first verse, sequentially, to the bridge and beyond. It's just a gentle lullaby-ish song where the images come and they go and they don't mean any one clear thing, necessarily, which is where that song is hopefully helping its little listener.

KCG: There's about 5 songs, roughly, at the end of your album that are like lullabies. They're just really soft and gentle, like a little treat for small (and big) ears.

KA: On Ladybug One, I wrote a little letter and coded that in the CD artwork. The letter says "Put on track 10," and from then on, it's kind of a lullaby where it gets gentle and mellows out. I did that again with Apple Apple. I think it's nice to have [lullabies] as a possibility on a kids' album. It's cool that you discovered that because I didn't explicitly say that in the CD artwork this time around.

KCG: Going back to Ladybug One and looking at Apple Apple it would seem that there are themes. Do you do that intentionally? On Apple Apple, there are a lot of apple references, whereas Ladybug One has a bunch of songs about bugs. When you write, do themes help shape where you want things to go? What is your approach when thinking about creating a record?

KA: Well, I start writing songs, they begin assembling and I make lists. My life is full of lists. The particular lists I'm referring to are a list of songs and little stars or a little line that means this or that. The lists could include songs that I really want to do, songs that I'm not sure how to do, or songs that might need more development. Slowly, it becomes organized into some songs that I start recording and eventually a title just pops up.

What I was trying to do with the song, "Apple Apple," and really why I liked that title, is because an apple is a very iconic kid noun. It was one of Montana's first 25 words. Even though it has a couple of syllables and it's not very easy to say, he really worked very hard on it. It's also very iconic for the region I live in North America, and really in North America, in general, apples can be a local food which is another subtle part of our message; eating healthy and locally. So, I chose that over say, a banana, which doesn't grow as commercially, as far as I know, anywhere in the continental United States. The last [reason] that I just want to mention is that saying [apple] twice, as in "Apple Apple," refers to this album being my second big family album, and it's kind of a way of tracking that. So, those are a couple of little reasons for having an apple in the title. I don't know if I'll stick with that and do something in three's for the third album. It will be really subtle if I do.

So, I came up with the album title and obviously there was the song, "Apple Apple," but I wanted to have a few more references to apples on the album and so you have the song, "Bare Feet," which is about climbing an apple tree. I almost changed the line in "Supermoon" to the moon being tangled on an apple branch, but I thought that maple was just as iconic [as apple], and kids would have more of an experience with a maple tree as opposed to an apple tree. But, I thought about it for a while and didn't think it was that important. So, I had two songs, "Bare Feet" and "Apple Apple," and was thinking maybe I can find more references [to apples], and the song, "Apple Eyes," just kind of popped up and I thought, "Wow, what a great way to end the record!" That's where the theme came from. It's definitely conscious, but subtle. I try to keep [the theme] subtle and not too overt. I think in Ladybug One [the theme] was a little more obvious. That album really had alot to do with bugs; there are a few ladybug references, there's fireflies, and there's spiders. So, these songs are really a reflection of my world that I live in. We live in the woods, we go outside and we're barefoot. We play in the garden in dirt, we go walking on trails, and there are owls and coyotes and raccoons and snakes and frogs all around us.

KCG: That comes through in the lyrics of the song, "Bare Feet." The song sends a message saying that we need to be outside and that it's important for kids to be outside.

KA: Doesn't matter what your background is, how old you are or where you live. Put a kid outside and let them play with some sticks and rocks.

[ read the full interview ]

Apple Apple - The Harmonica Pocket

Dreamy and moody, the latest album from Seattle-area duo The Harmonica Pocket is more muted than a lot of albums targeted at preschoolers. Not downbeat, mind you, but any album that takes the major chord bluegrass standard "Turkey in the Straw" and slows it down and gives it a hypnotic non-major chord rewrite is not the album you'll use for your home-based dance party (or at least your wilder ones). Instead, the 48-minute acoustic album (featuring help from Kindiependent friends Johnny Bregar, Jack Forman, and Caspar Babypants, among others) offers up subtler wordplay takes on standard toddler topics (moms, moons, and monkeys). It's got a bit of sense of humor, too -- "Diaperman" is as sweet-smelling as its topic sometimes isn't. Recommended.

[ read the article online ]

Our Wish List Cravings: Apple Apple

Recorded in a solar-powered studio, the latest album from groovy-green swing band The Harmonica Pocket features tender tracks to connect mom and baby to Mother Nature. And with guest Caspar Babypants providing nurturing vocals to the already educational songs, tots are sure to take away more than just festive melodies.

Musical Notes: Apple Apple

"In June, I reviewed The Harmonica Pocket's CD Ladybug One, a release from late 2007. Yes, I was a little late in reviewing it but thrilled because it turned out to be a great recording!

The band's most recent album, Apple Apple, was released in August, and it's just as awesome as Ladybug One, with the same cool, relaxed vibe resonating from each song.

Based out of the Seattle area, The Harmonica Pocket's Keeth Monta Apgar and Nala Walla found inspiration for many of the 14 songs on Apple Apple from their newborn son. The achingly sweet and humorous lyrics to "Little Little Baby" will bring back memories of the amazing littleness of a newborn baby to those of you, like me, whose little ones aren't so little anymore.

Like the band's past recordings, most of the songs on Apple Apple are acoustic and feature an array of instruments including ukulele, harmonica (of course!), banjo, percussion, mandolin, guitar, saxophone, trombone, and many others. The songs themselves, meanwhile, range in subject matter from counting ("I'm Gonna Count") to potty-humor ("Diaperman") to nature-appreciation ("Bare Feet"), to more traditional fare ("Turkey in the Straw").

The Harmonica Pocket deliver such good-natured indie-pop music that it's hard to resist them. Really glad I didn't wait five years to review this one!

[ read the article online ]

Apple Apple CD Review

The Harmonica Pocket just gained two new fans. The band's new album "Apple Apple" is a compilation of cheerful and fun children's songs. My daughter, who is 4 years old, is in love with the entire album, and as an adult I can shamelessly say so am I. My daughter especially likes "Little Little Baby", which she sings during car rides, while cleaning her room, while helping me cook dinner, during playtime, and pretty much any other waking moment. She proudly proclaims that the Washington state band's newest CD is her most favorite ever, ever.

Ideal for preschool-aged children, "Apple Apple" is an album of 14 songs with easy listening and catchy lyrics that spark the imagination. There are many albums made for kids that seem produced purposely to annoy parents while their children play them over and over…and over. However, this is definitely not the case with "Apple Apple." The Harmonica Pocket has done the right thing by parents, making sure that the music is a pleasure to listen to by both kids and adults. If you only pay attention to the instruments rather than the lyrics, you most likely would not even notice that they are singing songs called "Diaperman" and "Turkey in the Straw". That is just how good the music is. Also, the singer's voice is sweet to the listener's ears. I honestly do not mind listening to "I'm Gonna Count" with its head-bopping beat. The songs have a whimsical pop feel to them, combined with jazz and an acoustic touch. If I were to compare The Harmonica Pocket to a current mainstream pop artist, a name that comes to mind is Jason Mraz, but they also remind me of The Eagles or similar bands from that era.

I have never heard of The Harmonica Pocket until this summer when I was looking for some fresh new entertainment for my little girl. I received "Apple Apple" that it has basically just hit the market and has already won the Fall 2012 Parents' Choice Gold Award. I never actually heard of Parents' Choice until I was looking for CDs, but with a quick search I learned that it's an organization that picks the best of the best of media and toys for kids. So, I would say that it is a reliable source for kids' stuff, and I am glad I have this album based on their award.

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Fall 2012 Parent's Choice Gold Award Winner, by Lynne Heffley

Whoa. Who would ever think that a rendition of the ubiquitous folk song, "Turkey in the Straw," could be so wonderfully haunting that it inspires chills?

Singer, ethnomusicologist and musician (guitar, ukulele, bass, harmonica, toy piano) Keeth Monta Apgar uses vocal harmonies, jazzy chord progressions and emotive colors in such unexpected and delightful ways that each quirky song becomes discovered treasure. With singer Nala Walla and a host of other fine musicians on a wide array of brass, percussion and stringed instruments, Apgar mines gold out of songs about bare feet, counting, moms and wanting good things to happen right now ("Waiting Always Takes a Long Time").

"Reflections," a parent's assurance to always be there for a child who is testing the waters of independence is among the many lovely, memorable moments in Apgar's music and lyrics that multiply and resonate throughout.

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The Harmonica Pocket Apple Apple

I tend to consider myself eclectic in the music department. I love almost all genres, but I am particularly fond of indie acoustic styles of music. Fittingly, I want my boys to enjoy my same adventurous out of the box style.

The Harmonica Pocket band immediately appealed to my taste in music. A twist on classic, pop, jazz, and rock tunes melted together to produce music that is not only kid friendly but mom approved. Apple Apple is the latest CD, perfect for car rides and jamming at home.

I truly believe in introducing all types of music to children. Open their senses and give them something other than the typical radio music to entice and encourage their appetite in the art of music.

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One apple worth picking this fall

When I was pregnant with my first child, my neighbor gave me a cassette tape full of traditional kids' songs, and I thought, This is what I'll have to listen to when I have a baby? Interesting.

And then I sobbed. Maybe a little.

This could be one reason why I get so excited when I hear bands like The Harmonica Pocket, who create the kind of unique music I want my children to surround themselves with as they get started in this world. And their new CD is one you'll want to pick.

Apple Apple, the second CD from the The Harmonica Pocket, is refreshing to hear because so much of it is written for especially young kids who are just learning about the world--and the many words--around them.

With songs like Monkey Love (featuring Caspar Babypants), Little Little Baby, and the title song Apple Apple, you'll hear toddler-friendly lyrics that may not have you pondering the meaning of life, but are so much fun to sing along with before dinnertime. Clever rhymes and lyrics will have your littlest ones counting by fives, or delightedly turning the word banana over in their mouth as if it were a sentence and not three syllables.

There's much depth here, though, too: Afraid of Heights touches upon a common fear that I know all too well. And Waiting Always Takes a Long Time deals with the difficult concept of patience in a way that younger minds can grasp.

And what makes the 14 songs on Apple Apple so appealing to both little and big ears are the interesting musical arrangements and gorgeous voices of Keeth Monta Apgar and Nala Walla, who create a kind of nouveau-folk sound. Their music comes together especially beautifully in the slow, reggae-esque Happy Mother's Day, which is a perfect song for any day of the year.

The CD's last few songs are less singsong-y, with cool guitars, sultry saxophones, and more mature lyrics that sound like a long love letter sung to our babies. Kids' music? Yes, but oh, so much more too.

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The Harmonica Pocket : Apple Apple

When I first was offered The Harmonica Pocket's new release Apple Apple to review I knew I had to take a listen based on the album's title alone. Coming from an apple farming family makes me more inclined to love all things 'apple' related (I know, I know, this is music – not actual apples.)

This was one of those instances where my apple-loving genes paid off. The Harmonica Pocket is part of a Seattle area collective of family centered musicians, and their music really is for the whole family.

"I'm Gonna Count" has helped my almost 5-year-old polish her counting skills while at the same time inspiring me to sing along. "Monkey Love" has become a family favorite (What's not to love about monkeys?) and "Waiting Always Takes a Long Time" is a great lesson on teaching patience.

The songs on the album cover a wide variety of styles, but don't just take my word for it. Head on over to The Harmonica Pocket's Music & Tip Jar for a listen to some of their songs.

And if you're wondering, yes, you can definitely hear the actual harmonica being played on The Harmonica Pocket's Apple Apple album, now if only they had more cowbell…

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The Harmonica Pocket - Apple Apple Album Review

With so many of my recent posts having to do with the arrival of Fall, it seems fitting that this one is about an album called APPLE APPLE. Although the traditional Apple Harvest here in Northern Illinois (and much of the Midwest) is dismal this year (heat followed by frost followed by drought), the new album from THE HARMONICA POCKET would certainly make a mighty fine soundtrack for an afternoon in the orchard - something that I'd still like to attempt even with pickin's that are slim. Speaking of pickin'...
On APPLE APPLE, the Washington State duo of Keeth Monta Apgar and Nala Walla have surrounded themselves with a talented lot of guest musicians and vocalists to craft a robust collection of mellow, acoustic-driven kindie rock jams. Utilizing a multi-layered and multi-instrumental approach, there's a lot going on here, and it's all exceptionally played behind pitch-perfect vocal harmonies. I have a particular affection for stringed instruments, and the fretwork displayed here is pleasing from the start. In fact, I'd like to think that it was Kermit the Frog kickin' back with that banjo and watching falling leaves on the album opener, "I'm Gonna Count."

They get the likely singles stacked in early, with "Diaperman" (see the video here) and "Monkey Love" (featuring an appearance by fellow Kindie star, Caspar Babypants) immediately preceeding the appropriately delicious title track. "Afraid of Heights" might just be my favorite song on APPLE APPLE, the smooth tale of a newly-hatched bird, that as the title implies, is afraid of heights. The saxophone is a nice touch on this one. Actually, there's horns that appear throughout the album, adding to the jazzy undercurrent that features heavily. "Bare Feet" is a prime example of this, with the horn section working alongside a solid guitar lead on a track that brings a slow and steady groove.

With 14 tracks clocking in at nearly 49 minutes of music, APPLE APPLE goes well beyond that "30-minute" sweet spot that I've noted in the past when it comes to keeping the attention of my oldest munchkin (she's only 3), but THE HARMONICA POCKET have certainly crafted a great album for the entire family.

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Check This Out: The Harmonica Pocket - Apple Apple

Fall is approaching and that means beautiful colors, cozy sweaters and delicious apples. What better way to celebrate the upcoming season than with a new release from The Harmonica Pocket.

"Apple Apple," the third children's release from The Harmonica Pocket, is a melodic dream. The eloquence with which the words and instrumentation flow throughout the album leave you feeling like someone just whispered a gentle lullaby in your ear. It's very sweet and the stories these songs tell contain simple words and familiar concepts which the wee ones should easily identify with.

The Harmonica Pocket is primarily made up of Keeth Apgar (main vocals, master songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) but also features a regular group of folks, one of which includes partner, Nala Walla, who delivers rich harmonic vocals throughout the album, as well as, fellow Seattle-based Kindiependent artists such as Johnny Bregar (banjo), Jack Foreman from Recess Monkey (bass throughout) and Caspar Babypants (vocals). The recording of this album, as well as their previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington.

Many of the songs on "Apple Apple" are like poems, with each line complementing the one before it. What I particularly love about the album is how it plays with linguistics, character development and timing. The songs are multi-dimensional, containing carefully paired lyrical and musical melodies. The instruments in many of these songs are just as important as the words, often times acting as another voice with the pluck of a chord or the warm, rich tone of the saxophone at just the right time. They even serve to heighten a climatic moment within a song just by a change in time signature. A great example of this is in "Afraid of Heights," a beautiful song about a bird who comes out of its shell and is afraid to fly. The song starts in 4/4 time and makes a transition to 3/4 time when the bird sees the sky, faces its fears and flies. It's this simple change that evokes a feeling of exhileration that comes from overcoming your fears, just as the little bird did.

The sentiment behind "Apple Apple" is somewhat different than the previous, highly acclaimed "Ladybug One" as both Keeth and Nala have become parents. As a result, several of the songs, i.e. "Diaperman," "Monkey Love," "Reflections" and "Little Baby," to name a few, are inspired by this new development. The songs carry a calming, chilled out vibe with some notes of folk, jazz, pop and even some reggae.

Conceptually, there is also this notion of experiencing life "naturally" and having that be the driving force behind the creative process. A great example of this is the smooth, jazzy little song "Bare Feet," which was inspired by Apgar's personal experience with climbing trees as a child (and somewhat occasionally as an adult). The song describes kicking off your shoes, climbing a tree with bare feet and observing the feeling of the bark, the wind blowing, as well as, looking with wonder at the birds and the leaves on the trees. I love the lyrics "Kick off my shoes/Pull myself up by my own hands/A breeze blows through/Everything moves and we slow dance/Above me only clear blue sky/So good to be outside/I forget sometimes/That I need to play/Everyday/…And all I need are my bare feet/climbing up to the top of this apple tree."

In addition to apples, the album covers a variety of topics. There is counting in "I'm Gonna Count" which invites listeners to count stones on the beach by single digits (1, 2, 3), leaves on the trees by even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) and stars in the sky by 5′s (5, 10, 15, 20…) and syllabic playfulness in the title track "Apple Apple" where each word is broken up and sung with one syllable. It's a great game to play with the actual lyrics of the song, but also in making up your own words. It's always good for a few laughs.

Em particularly gets a kick out of the baby tooting in "Little Baby" and laughs with a slight squeal after waiting for it. She knows it's coming and waits in anticipation with a smile, repeating "just wait, it's comin' up, it's comin' up, the baby's gonna toot!" until she hears it.

Other notable songs include one of our favorites "Monkey Love," features Caspar Babypants as Monkey two. The song basically uses the word Monkey repetitiously to tell the tale of three monkeys who come together and become a family. "Monkey one Monkey two Monkey three/Monkey me Monkey he Monkey she/ Monkey love Monkey we Monkey be family…." "Turkey in the Straw," one of my personal favorites, is a slowed down rendition of the original with a funky kind of groove.

Rounding out the album are some slower songs which make perfect lullabies and embody the love that "Apple Apple" was premised on. Reflections, for example, was written while Keeth was out walking with his son, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning, to help him fall asleep. I think most parents should either relate to or remember this very vividly.

Apgar, along with the rest of The Harmonica Pocket contingent, create a rich environment that carries the message of love, acceptance, wonder and respect for the world around us. "Apple Apple" is sure to be enjoyed by the 0 – 5 crowd and their grown-ups. Without a doubt one of our favorite albums of the year so far. I encourage all of you to tempt your palate and take a bite out of this record. It will absolutely satisfy your "aural" taste buds.

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Bite into Apple Apple by The Harmonica Pocket — It's Sweet

Ever listen to an album for the first time and say "Oooh, I like that song"? Ever listen to an album for the first time and say "Oooh, I like that song" fourteen times? That's the great pleasure of Apple Apple (sample here) by The Harmonica Pocket. It is filled with songs that reassure, stretch the imagination, and inspire giggles.

There is a tremendous lot of good kindie (that's "indie for kids," in case you didn't know) music coming out of Washington State, and The Harmonica Pocket offers some of the best. What makes them so good? It's a combination of rhythms that are both happy and comforting, singers (Keeth Apgar and Nala Walla) who sound like they are singing just for you, and fun songs with clever, easy-to-learn lyrics. These are songs that are relatable by young children with themes that range from simple counting to fantasy to the very silly. Kids will be singing along after only one or two plays.

There are lessons to be learned from a bird "Afraid of Heights," super-hero "Diaperman" with sidekick Nincompoop, and a song that may help kids understand the concept of patience, "Waiting Always Takes a Long Time." "I'm Gonna Count" is a counting song tinged with fantasy, for those singing along are going to count all the stones on the beach, all the leaves on the trees, and all the stars in the sky (don't worry…it doesn't go on for infinity).

Fantasy also stars in "Supermoon," a song about the moon falling from the sky and the person who takes care of it. Yes, it's kids' music, but adults will enjoy its gentle, compassionate message (another song that beautifully conveys caring is "Reflections"). Speaking of adults…moms are gonna love "Happy Mother's Day" with its reggae-flavored beat and lyrics that express a child's love: "Mother I love you—I love you so…how could I ever repay all the gifts you gave? The only way is simply to say, 'Happy Mother's Day.'"

Apple Apple draws its tone from a number of different genres including jazz, folk, blues, and reggae, and was recorded with solar power, reflecting The Harmonica Pocket's commitment to the planet and all the creatures that share it. Other songs on the album are: "Monkey Love," "Apple Apple," "Little Little Baby," "Turkey in the Straw," "Bare Feet," "Dream a Dream," and "Apple Eyes."

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CD Review

These indie-acoustic children's songs have an international feel, mixing in harmonicas, reggae beats, and Spanish-inspired melodies. Adult ears will enjoy the happy-go-lucky vibe.

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CD Review

Let me just start off by saying, The Harmonica Pocket's Apple Apple is not just an album for kids. This is music that parents can enjoy. Other children's albums we own, we turn off once our Princess falls asleep or leaves the vehicle. We laugh if we forget to turn it off. As parents we just don't choose to listen to Children's Music. But Apple Apple has such fun sounds and catchy lyrics – music I enjoy. Great folk sounds, guitar and harmonica blend together in such a lovely way. It is fun, it is entertaining.

We especially love songs #1 – I'm Gonna Count, #8 Waiting Always Takes a Long Time, #10 Bare Feet and #11 Reflections. And when I say we I also mean me. If you are looking for an album for your children that has catchy kids words and songs set to a folksy yet fun music that you will want to listen to – Apple Apple is the album for you.

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Music Download of the Week: Monkey Love

Is there any creature more perfectly suited for toddlers to love than a monkey? Mischievous, adorable, snuggly, and prone to making gigantic messes, it's no wonder that almost every toddler I meet will go bananas (heh) for this song.

Monkey Love, off of CMP favorite The Harmonica Pocket's newest release Apple Apple, is a playful, singsongy tune with beginner lyrics like Monkey Me/ Monkey Climb/ Monkey Tree. And while the lyrics are definitely toddler-approved, they are perfectly suited for the sway-inducing song---no eye rolling, I promise.

I've recently read that the lyrics are actually about how people come together to make a family, and while I definitely didn't catch that the first time around, this makes the song sound even sweeter when I hear it now.

I also love that Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew) joins the duo of Keeth Monta Apgar and Nala Walla---their three voices come together at the end to make a most beautiful harmony. All to distract you from the mess your little monkey is making while you dance around the room.

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Apple Apple CD Review

Apple Apple is the third family-friendly music CD of The Harmonica Pocket, a group of acclaimed "Kindiependant" performers. A hint of educational encouragement is woven into songs about counting or sounding out syllables, but most of the songs are about observing and appreciating the wonderful world all around us.

Love for the simple pleasures of daily life reflected in Apple Apple make it a children's music CD that parents can enjoy as well. Highly recommended.

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Apple Apple CD Review

We enjoyed the smooth. mellow sounds of The Harmonica Pocket. "Apple Apple" was full of fun, sweet songs. We were very interested to learn that the band is solar-powered...very impressive:) There is definitely educational value in this CD and we love teaching our kiddos through music. What a fantastic addition to our children's music library:) ABCD Diaries gives "Apple Apple" an A+!

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Seasonal Singing

Getting ready for vacation always puts our family in a good mood. But packing for the trip? Not so much. Trying to figure out just how many books/stuffed animals/toys can be crammed into our generously sized car still proves challenging. That means there is only so much space for kiddie DVDs and CDs (or at least, that's what we tell them).

This summer, however, we don't mind making room for some of the newer, travel-friendly releases that put even our "driver" in a toe-tapping mood. Among the ones we've got our ear buds plugged into this season is The Harmonica Pocket's Apple Apple. Not only is it seasonally appropriate, as the summer days segue into autumn, but it offers a fine balance between lively sing-alongs and low-key little ditties for tolerating traffic jams. "I'm Gonna Count" makes a nice alternative to the license-plate counting game, while "Diaperman" and "Little, Little Baby" had my daughters laughing and cooing simultaneously over the real baby sounds. Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the super-cool harmonica playing on this release. Kind of puts us in a lazy-days-of-summer mode....just right for vacation.

In a Nutshell: This road trip-ready release makes a fine choice for family vacations, or any other time you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

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The Harmonica Pocket's new cd — perfect for summer and toddlers!

We in the northwest realize that some unlucky kids (and lucky parents?) in other parts of the country are back in school already. But, summer is in full swing here, and you can't take that away from me! (Tantrum here.) So, when I listened to the new cd by The Harmonica Pocket Apple Apple it struck me as the perfect companion to a picnic on the grass and a mess of toddlers. The music is light and fun, with guitar, ukelele and harmonica vibes, and utterly catchy lyrics. I particularly like the title track "Apple Apple" and how Keeth Apagar and Nala Walla play around with syllables—so fun, and makes even parents feel like their brains are learning. Another fabulous song is "Monkey Love" with special guest Chris Ballew from Caspar Babypants—a sweet, cuddly, silly concoction that would also make a chipper children's book. Speaking of art and monkeys, I am a fan of the illustrator on the cover—Matthew Porter—check out his pirate monkey (and monkeys of all kinds!) prints here.

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CD Review: Apple Apple by The Harmonica Pocket by Lauren Valencia

Released August 14, Apple Apple is a collection of kid-friendly pop songs by eco-conscious Puget Sound musicians The Harmonica Pocket. The tunes are light and airy, the stories whimsical, and the overall vibe earthy and playful. Families can enjoy this versatile album together indoors and out.

My first introduction to the album was the video for the track "Diaperman," which intrigued my classroom of preschoolers and quickly became our circle-time kickoff song. Diaperman, a green superhero, meets the littering Nincompoop and wins him over with hugs and friendship — thanks to a breezy melody and DIY puppet show. Musician Keeth Monta Apgar and vocalist Nala Walla strum and sing with an almost hypnotizing calm, telling stories that capture kids' imagination.

With solar-powered production and the sounds of guitars, toy piano, and ukulele, Apple Apple will engage all ages and imaginations.

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Review: The Harmonica Pocket's Apple Apple

Lucky is the toddler who learns to count from the nature around him. It's an organic learning, one more meaningful and understood. "Apple Apple," the second album from The Harmonica Pocket, is a sweet collection of songs geared most directly to the very young.

The first song on the album, "I'm Gonna Count" is exactly what it says, it's a counting song. But instead of insipidly counting forward and backward as you might be imagining, it's about counting collections of stuff found in nature, like rocks. Blue commented spontaneously while giving it a listen, "I know what this song is about. It's about a big brother helping his little brother learn to count." I, naturally, had thought it was a parent teaching child, but true art is different to every beholder.

Other noteable songs include the syllabic "Apple Apple", the hilarious "Diaperman" and the inspirational "Afraid of Heights." "Waiting takes a Long Time" is a great song for people of all ages with a little lesson at the end for those of us impatient types. I will not confess to you that "Little Little Baby" made me a bit nostalgic for my own little diapermen (and made me kind of hope for another?) I'll tell you instead that it was sweet, tender, and made irresistable with the real life baby coos.

This album was recorded and produced off the grid at the Harmonica Pocket's solar-powered studios. It is a simple, wholesome album for the little ones and the ones that love them most. It flows like the free-form songs my husband made up for our babies, drawing inspiration from the day. It is fluid, sweet, and marinated in love.

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Apple Apple by The Harmonica Pocket

Are you in the mood for a sing-a-long? Today marks the official release date of the third family music CD by The Harmonica Pocket. It was produced off the grid at the band's solar-powered studios on Marrowstone Island, Washington and is filled with 14 cheerful & educational tracks. You'll also hear a few guest spots from {KID} favourites Chris Ballew (Caspar Babypants) & Jack Forman (Recess Monkey).

My top pick off this album is the groovy title track, "Apple Apple". It's super simple, but I love the jazzy beats. It's a great one for little folk who are just starting to learn their words (and fruits!). I also dig "Afraid of Heights" and "Waiting Always Takes a Long Time" for their folksy sound, and "Reflections" for it's beautiful bedtime sentiments. Oh, and "Dream a Dream" too! Definitely all worth a listen.

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Apple Apple CD by The Harmonica Pocket

Like Superheroes with your Apples?

Music scoop! Songs about birds, trees and diapers? Check, check and check. Guest artists including Caspar Babypants (CD review forthcoming – you will love it!) and Jack Forman of Recess Monkey? Check and check. This third album by The Harmonica Pocket's Seattle area based band is known for producing family-centric 'Kindiependent' and musically acclaimed tracks with well known kids musicians in the area. It's fun, hilarious and even mixed with a little educational ditties like "I'm Gonna Count'. If you happen to live in the Northwest area, be sure to catch their high energy shows with funky props including hula hoops. You won't want to miss it!

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Good Music That's Good For You by Charlotte Bohn

I wish I had listened to Ladybug One by the group The Harmonica Pocket when it was first sent to me for review in 2008. (Yes, you read that correctly.) But, as the saying goes, "Better late than never." Within the first few tracks of this CD, I realized that I had never heard anything like this group's music— laid back and chill, with a cool vibe that is strikingly appealing.

Singer/songwriter Keeth Monta Apgar leads each song with his groovy James-Tayloresque voice and acoustic guitar. His collaboration with 16 other musicians and 13 young children translates into one unique album, where on any given track you'll hear instruments as diverse and unusual as the harmonica, ukulele, didgeridoo, marimba, and kazoo. While Harmonica Pocket covers recognizable songs (with some altered lyrics) such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "ABC's," and "O Susanna," the majority of the songs are originals about fireflies, bumblebees, spiders, and ladybugs. Funky and eclectic, Ladybug One is most definitely in a class of its own within the genre of children and family music.

[ link to article online ]

Kids' (free!) music download of the week by Christina Refford

May you wake up tomorrow to hugs and something yummy for Mother's Day breakfast that you didn't have to make for yourself. And whenever your day starts to feel like any other Sunday, here's a song you can crank up and play to remind the world that this is your day.

The mellow-reggae backing of The Harmonica Pocket's Happy Mother's Day is the perfect tempo for slow dancing with the kids in the kitchen. I love the unusual minor harmonies between lead singers Keeth Apgar and Nala Walla contrasted against the super-sweet lyrics.

So, kids: No fighting, tantrums, whining, screeching or banging the cup angrily on the high chair. Otherwise, Mama is going to turn up the volume.

[ link to article online ]


I was checking out The Harmonica Pocket's website recently and saw that they would be coming to our local library with their new show Get Loose With Seuss. Timberland Regional library is using this new show to kick-off their annual reading program and to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday.

I've heard of The Harmonica Pocket before, but I didn't have any experience with their music, and I really had no idea what to expect. The group is fronted by Keeth Monta Apgar who plays "acoustic wah wah guitar" and is joined by a rotating selection of other musicians. Nala Walla joined him this time; she provides vocal harmony and her famous hula hoop.

The group is described as "indie-pop" and "jazz-pop", but not "corn-pop", at least not yet. Honestly these labels don't really mean anything to me. I dislike putting labels on music because I think that most people don't tend to think in terms of labels when they think about the kind of music that they like. "Kids Music" is enough of a label for me because kids music can be just about anything.

The two marched out stomping and playing their hinkle-horns (that would be a kazoo attached to two tubes leading to a couple of brightly colored horns) and greeted the crowd enthusiastically. However, there was no sound! Wow, let me tell you that totally threw all the kids off! They were so intrigued, baffled, confused . . . what in the world was up with these people!? It was soon determined that it was necessary for the kids to turn on their ears before the show could start and after a quick lesson on how to turn on your ears, everything continued at a much louder pace.

They began by singing a birthday song to Dr. Suess and other songs were created using parts of Dr. Seuss stories. The kids were really excited about it because all of them were familiar with Dr. Seuss books and their subsequent songs like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. There was also a great little sketch about how Dr. Seuss came up with his ideas, including the idea for Horton Hatches an Egg. The kids expressed shear delight when Nala broke out her hula hoop and she received quite a bit of applause for all her tricks. Nala also danced with a pair of large orange and red scarves that was really beautiful and fun to watch. At one point she pulled one of the scarves over several kids in the audience until she reached the end of the semi-circle of kids. She then draped the scarf over herself and three very lucky little kids and they sat for a moment in their own private tent. It was so child-like and carefree.

They closed the show with a song about Horton Hears a Who and a large balloon was bounced around the audience as we all pretended that it contained a tiny world of Whos. Nala ended up catching the balloon and letting all the air out in Keeth's face, to which Keeth replied, "That balloon has bad breath!" The audience all had a laugh and gave a large round of applause.

We bought The Harmonica Pocket's new album, Lady Bug One, to get a sense of what some of their other music is like. I for one enjoyed the show so much that I'd really love to see some of their other shows. I've listened to the CD several times now and I can tell you that it is like nothing else that you will hear in the kids music world. Visit their website where you can download mp3s of some of their songs for free (or leave a contribution in the tip jar). Also check out what they say about the Free Music Project. It's a delightful breath of fresh air in the music industry. I love the fact that some people in the kids music industry are embracing this idea.

The Harmonica Pocket has more shows coming up so be sure to go check them out! They'll even be doing a taped radio show on Evergreen's radio station KAOS, Sunday, March 14, 3-5 pm PST. So even if you can't get to one of their shows, you can still listen to them.

[ link to article online ]

Get Loose With Seuss Show Preview by Molly Gilmore

A harmonica pocket - Keeth Monta Apgar's term for funny asymmetrical pockets on 1970s jackets - is just big enough for a harmonica.

But the Harmonica Pocket — the catch-all name for Apgar’s musical projects — is big enough to hold indie-pop music for children and adults, a rotating cast of band members, and even a hula hoop.

Apgar and hoop-wielding sidekick Nala Walla, both of Port Townsend, are celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday and the kickoff of the Timberland Regional Libraries’ annual Read-Aloud Program with shows March 4 and 6 in Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater.

“We’re looking at Dr. Seuss as a person who inspired creativity, someone who revolutionized learning to read and childhood in America,” Apgar said. “We’re looking at his life and his books as symbols of that.”

If that sounds serious, Harmonica Pocket is anything but. When it comes to creativity, Apgar knows what he’s talking about, said Ellen Duffy, Timberland’s youth services coordinator. Duffy booked the group to perform last summer at Aberdeen Timberland Library.

“They wowed every single person in the audience,” she said. “I will never forget it. It was so unbelievably creative, and there was lots of audience interaction. Last summer’s theme was ‘be creative,’ and we could not have found a group that fit that theme any better.”

The show will give audience members the opportunity to sing “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and other Seuss stories, and to sing “Happy Birthday” to the late author, who was born March 2, 1904.

“We have a piece called ‘Guess Which Seuss,’ ” Apgar said. “The audience will hear a couple of pages and then try to guess which book they came from. Some of them are really easy, and some are pretty challenging.”

The show Duffy saw included some Seuss, and she asked Apgar to develop a program for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the traditional starting date for the library’s Read-Aloud Program. It was the latest step on Apgar’s winding road to becoming a children’s entertainer.

“The Harmonica Pocket was a bar band for about six years,” he said. “Eventually, I got a job substitute teaching in a preschool. I would bring in instruments and play music with the kids and for the kids.”

Eventually, that led to recording songs, and that led to a show at a school. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we went in and tried to do the best show we could,” Apgar said. “At the end of the show, the director of the school said, ‘Wow, the kids have never sat still for an hour.’ It’s been an organic thing, and now I find myself doing it full time. You get surprised sometimes where you end up.”

He also hasn’t stopped making music for adults.

“A song will hatch, so to speak, and it will tell me, ‘I’m a kids’ song’ or ‘I’m not,’ ” he said, sounding a bit like a kids’ song himself. “About half of my songs are adult songs and half of them are kids’ songs.”

[ link to article online ]


Show Review by Joanna Woods

A kazoo, a wah-wah guitar, a basket of fresh vegetables, a hula hoop, and a harmonica – these aren’t items you would think you might stumble upon in a library.  However, on Tuesday, Nov. 17 all of these items plus a pair of highly energetic performers equipped with several other strange props were found entertaining children and their parents at the Des Moines Library.

Nala Walla and Keeth Apgar are the dynamic duo of the kid-friendly, indie-pop band called Harmonica Pocket that has been touring locally for a Thanksgiving-themed sing-along called “Singing Thanksgiving.”

The Harmonica Pocket was started up by Apgar who, after he was asked to perform a show at a preschool, decided to start dedicating some time to writing children’s music and performing at local schools.

"Nala and I put together a little show, a children's show with some movement, music, and some props.  After that show, we couldn't believe it when they told us we did the best job that anyone had ever done," he said.

The duo preformed their Thanksgiving show at the Des Moines Library on Tuesday, Nov 17. Apgar said they wanted to do a show that they could do once a year.

"We came up with Thanksgiving as a theme. We thought it would be a good American holiday – non-denominational, all inclusive, really nice themes of food and appreciation, and giving thanks for the harvest and all the other things we have in our lives,” he said.

The show got the children singing and moving along with the simple choreography to the acoustic story-songs and their original renditions on some classic American folk songs.

"There's some games that we do as well, which are just outside the box, playful, pro-creativity games that we would play with the kids and for the kids,” he said.

Apgar said the Thanksgiving show has a lot of songs that let the audience join in the fun.

"Many of them are Thanksgiving-themed that we've come up with. One is a very interactive song called Give Thanks, where we ask people to share with us what they're thankful for and we put that into the song,” he said.

Walla dances and often incorporates a hula hoop into her routine. Apgar accompanies her with various instruments such as a ukulele, a harmonica, or a guitar.

“The Hula hoop keeps everybody focused and happy,” he said.

The group just recently started to do performance in libraries. Apgar said that it’s really fun to be invited to make noise in a library for a change.

On Tuesday’s performance the duo played their rendition of American Folk tunes such as Over the River and Through the Woods, Turkey in the Straw, and an original piece called Ladybug 123.

The show was interactive along with being fun and educational. The children got to practice their counting on Ladybug 123.  The children also learned the names of vegetables during a song where Walla went around and had them pick a vegetable out of a basket and identify it.

Apgar said that currently a lot of his work has been focused on performing kid-friendly songs. “Right now the opportunities that have been coming in are primarily kid’s music gigs”.

Even though Harmonica Pocket releases mainly children’s music Apgar said they also do covers and write some adult friendly songs.

“We definitely have some adult music, we have a lot of Beatles covers, Bob Dylan, just great songs, I’m always on the search for great songs whether they’re classics or obscure songs from the past," he said.

For more information on Harmonica Pocket and upcoming shows visit



Finally...a children's music album that I can listen to with my kids for hours on end. And it doesn't make me want to pull my hair out! Serious bonus points for them.

The Harmonica Pocket is definitely on to something with their out of the ordinary and captivating acoustic story-songs. Their creativity level soars through the roof with their album, Ladybug One. Every single song is without question awe-inspiring. It took my family on an enchanting journey through nature. I've never heard anything like it. It's mature, brilliant and absolutely spellbinding.

Keeth Apgar, you're a genius.

One track will have you mesmerized. So go ahead - break out your inner child and share some beautiful moments with your children. Grab Ladybug One today. It's that good. Oh yeah, and it has a killer version of O Susanna!

[ link to article online ]



Any band that uses solar power to make their CD then encourages people to copy it for their friends makes me feel all warm and fuzzy before I've even heard a note. Thankfully, The Harmonica Pocket's new kids' music CD, Ladybug One, is filled with such cool, trippy harmonies and smart, offbeat lyrics, it's as satisfying as all their do-gooding.

Starting with the sultry, lush Firefly which has me wishing for a hot summer's night, Ladybug One moves into my fave, the bouncy Spiders in my Breakfast--a lot more adorable than it sounds, and my kids find the lyrics hilarious. My tree-hugging spirit loved the lovely, yet spirited, One Tree Said which reminds us to not be so greedy. And even though The Harmonica Pocket uses just about every crazy instrument you can imagine, like a waterphone, toy piano and even a hula hoop, their sound comes together in such a way that feels cohesive and totally natural.

Just make sure you save the super-mellow lullaby portion of this 16-song CD for bedtime, and not the drive to school.

[ link to article online ]



The Harmonica Pocket's Ladybug One offers inventive songs with understated vocals and a refreshing array of instruments, from stand-up bass, fiddle, and musical saw to toy piano, cello, and pedal harp. (The harp is featured on the luminous “La Luna,” a lullaby sung partly in Spanish.)  Keeth Monta Apgar sneaks a little environmental awareness into his quirky lyrics while taking listeners on imaginative journeys in which bumblebees sleep and spiders slip into your breakfast. This unique album, which includes the funkiest version of the ABCs you’ve ever heard, is a real treat, and the eco-minded will appreciate that it was recorded using solar power.

[ link to article online ]


Show Preview by Alexandra Zissu

The Harmonica Pocket’s coming to town from Washington State for the first time, performing kid stuff at Symphony Space. Their lovely, lilting, melodious acoustic story-songs are devoid of anything even resembling bubblegum pop—it’s the sort of music any parent would be delighted to play even when the kids aren’t home. Go see that soft, clever, and beautiful can hold kids’ attention just as much as loud and annoying can. Here’s hoping they return soon and often.


Harmonica Pocket

I realize it’s been a while since I blogged about kid’s music, so the next few blogs will be devoted to some fresh and funky, rock ‘n roll for little people. I’ll start it all off with a review of a great album called Ladybug One brought to us by a band with one of the coolest names I’ve heard in a while — Harmonica Pocket. Here’s how they describe the album on their website:

"The Harmonica Pocket’s 2008 release Ladybug One, a Parent’s Choice Recommended Award Winner, is a truly all-ages album made for kids and adults to listen to together. The album was recorded off the grid using solar electricity and is full of genre-crossing originals and twists on traditional folk songs. said “you won’t hear arrangements like this on any other album for children.”

“Off the grid” describes this album well. It’s exceptionally unusual. It’s got a consisent indie-pop vibe, but there are hints of a whole host of diffferent genres. The band is not shy about using unusual instruments — their version of “O Susanna” includes sitar and “One Tree Said” features the musical saw! A little darker than most children’s music, but that’s kinda refreshing if you ask me.

Give this a try if you’re looking for something unpredictable and unique.

[ link to article online ]


music review by Stephanie Bange

Composer/musician Keeth Monta Apgar takes risks on this album with mixed results. Harmonica Pocket, the Seattle-based group, defies classification and continues its rotating roster of musicians, this time featuring the talents of Apgar, Jon Ryser, and Nala Walla. Apgar should be commended for experimenting with non-Western musical traditions and mixing it up with Western practice. It is refreshing to be exposed to unusual musical instruments and styles.

Recorded in a studio using only solar power, the recording packs a strong ecological punch since many songs have a theme related to insects or nature, such as "Firefly" (a mysterious, yet intimate tune featuring a saxophone solo) and "One Tree Said" (a haunting song about only taking what you need from nature). Stand-outs include "O Susanna" (with sitar and tabla percussion accompaniment), "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" (the syncopated beat and ukulele make this version work), "Lucid Dream #3" (this solo on pedal harp shines), and "Mbira Dreaming" (features an African mbira playing a lullaby). The laid-back nature of the majority of these tunes makes this perfect for rest-time music.

—Stephanie Bange, Wilmington-Stroop Branch, Dayton Metro Library, OH .

[ link to article online ]


album review

For those who care about such things, Ladybug One may very well be the first off-grid children's music album -- it was recorded at a solar-powered studio in Washington state. Yay! And then, oh yeah, there's the music, which isn't too shabby either. Nicely acoustic original songs about fireflies, spiders and bumblebees alone would make us more than pleased, but then the band just gets kooky with a North Indian "O Susanna" and an indie-pop rendering of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." These kid-friendly indie-pop folks are on the way to becoming big favorites.

[ link to article online ]


Surround Sound

Ladybug One by the Harmonica Pocket:

Don’t be turned off by the insect soliloquies peppered throughout the album. With their soothing voices, Harmonica Pocket, an indie-pop-folk group that hails from the land of Starbucks and grunge rockers, can be quite Simon & Garfunkel at times. Particularly ear-worthy are the two instrumental songs at the end of the album, which are so mesmerizing you’ll swear you’re back in college chilling out to George Winston.

[ link to article online ]


song and dance and some stories too, by whitney lou

Harmonica Pocket’s fourth CD, “Ladybug One,” caught my eye initially because the cover announces that it was produced with solar power and that the group participates in the Free Music Project. That means you can download or trade their music for free—but please put money in their online “tip jar.” With all the controversy over pirating CDs, for a band to put its music out there for free is surprising indeed.

Harmonica Pocket is actually Keeth Monta Apgar and some of his friends who create music that is not easily categorized. Reggae, folk, Hindi, African and countless other influences clearly illustrate Apgar’s ethnomusicology background.

Sure, there have been plenty of versions of “O Susanna,” but “O Susanna” with a sitar and tabla? Apgar’s version has an exotic and innocent sound.

The harmonized voices of “Firefly” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” remind me of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the songs have the same earnest, warm quality.

For those interested in the meaning behind the music, the “lyrics and song stories” category of Harmonica Pocket’s website is a lot like the “special features” section of DVD movies. For every song that he has listed, Apgar writes all the lyrics and the story behind them.

In the back story for “One Tree Said” (“We’ll give you all you need, any more than that is greed. Just let us be where we belong”) Apgar quotes a Native American proverb and clarifies his message with the song, and he gives a description of the hand and chainsaws that were used in the background.

The bowing of an actual handsaw produced a ghostly sound, like a wind blowing through a haunted forest. Knowing that a saw, normally used to cut down trees, was also used to create this musical imagery made the song even more powerful.

[ link to article online ]


music category award recipient

This inventive album cruises off the beaten path, layering songs about fireflies and ladybugs, spiders and bumblebees with unusual harmonies, instrumentation and word-play ("then in the trees a tiny sneeze/a ladybug with allergies…."). Even the ABC's and the traditional "O Susanna" are transformed with Harmonica Pocket's unique world-music-meets-folk vibe.

[ link to article online ]


let's sing

Hi, my name is Felineous Kats. Every month, I'll share my favorite new children's music with you to get your toes tapping and your groove going!

The kooky music of Harmonica Pocket has been making me snap my fingers and shuffle my feet all day long. Their joyful tunes are perfect for a summer afternoon, with banjos, kazoos, and fiddles, and even some instruments from India and Japan. But what's really cool, cats, is that kids just like you sing along on the songs, and also tell a few interesting facts about bugs!

You'll recognize "Twinkle, Twinkle" and the "ABCs," but Harmonica Pocket gives the music a whole new twist. The best songs are about insects like ladybugs, fireflies, bumblebees and spiders. (I bet you've never heard a song about "Spiders in My Breakfast"!) My favorite tune is "Ladybug One Two Three," because it reminds me of one of my favorite friends, Ladybug!

P.S. Harmonica Pocket is a "solar-powered" band. That means they made the record using only the sun's power! Extra cool cat points.

[ link to article online ]


fun finds

Parent & Child Harmonica Pocket placement



harmonica pocket spellbinds the kids, by andy rathbun

Keeth Apgar is telling a group of kids he wants them to blow the roof off the Marysville Library.

"Usually we have to be really quiet," he says into his microphone. "But not today."

The crowd of children launch into "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," belting it out as Apgar leans away from his mic and, like a rock star, mouths the words.

Later on, Nala Walla, the other half of the children's music duo Harmonica Pocket, bounces into the audience to do handstands. She also mystifies the crowd with her hula hoop skills.

"She's good at that!" one 5-year-old shouts repeatedly.

This is Harmonica Pocket, an increasingly popular children's group made up of Apgar and Walla. The duo, who occasionally work with other musicians, plans to play a number of dates throughout the spring and summer in Snohomish County.

The group was started by Apgar, a lanky, soft-spoken 32-year-old who has been writing music for nearly 20 years. He started using the Harmonica Pocket name in 1999. Then, it was a reference to a loose confederacy of musicians and artists. In 2004, he expanded the definition to include his foray into children's music.

Now, Apgar and Walla, 35, live near Port Townsend in a small community "interested in art and performing and growing food," Apgar said.

The pair's musical act sometimes reflects their environmentally friendly lifestyle. For instance, the song "One Tree Said" includes singing fish and trees that encourage people to only take what they need from the world, no more, lest they be greedy.

"One Tree Said," along with sillier fare like "Spiders in My Breakfast," are found on the group's latest CD, the acclaimed 2008 release "Ladybug One." The album, a joyful and poppy blend of acoustic songwriting and world music, reflects Apgar's degree in ethnomusicology -- the study of other cultures' music.

"There are so many sounds in the world," Apgar said of his decision to include sitar and African thumb piano. "I would love to see more of them introduced. I think that's a really positive experience for people, especially little kids."

The album also has been praised by parenting organizations for its whimsical storytelling. Even Time Out New York was impressed -- well, sort of -- calling the group "hippie-dippy without being overly hokey."

"Hopefully none of them (the messages) are too overt or preachy," Apgar said. "One of them is, turn off the TV and go outside and play. And you know basically, the bigger message is to just be creative, use what you got. Make up some games. Have some fun."

During shows, the group's message of creativity comes to life with audience-participation games such as one called the Nothing.

The game starts with the duo talking about how they have nothing to do -- no video games, no TV. Then, using some basic mime, Apgar and Walla start passing a nonexistent object back and forth. They act as if its weight is changing. They make funny noises, pretending the sound comes from the Nothing.

Then, kids are passed the Nothing. At first, they cup their hands to hold empty air and wait for a sound. Slowly they catch on, realizing they need to make a noise. Some squawk. Others give a roar. Their friends laugh, and reach out to hold nothing.

Eventually, the non-existent object is put away.

"That sure was a whole lot of nothing," Walla says, with a smile.

The group's two Marysville Library shows attracted more than 200 people. The crowd included three kindergarten classes, plenty of toddlers and some parents.

"They kept both of those very large groups so engaged and entertained," Marysville children's librarian Pat Timko said. "A lot of times presenters kind of lose the audience for one reason or another. They just captivated them."

Granted, at this point, the pair has had some practice handling a crowd.

"We are full-time artists," Apgar said. "The children's show is really taking full front. It's a positive for us."

[ link to article online ]



lines we love

Parent & Child Harmonica Pocket placement



earth-friendly music for kids

Family Fun Magazine clipping: Earth-Friendly Music for Kids



arbor day episode

SOLAR POWERED & WORLDLY! I love the ecological awareness behind both the production of Ladybug One and the lyrics of the songs. This truly “green” recording was produced off the grid at their solar-powered studios on Marrowstone Island, Washington. That impressed me. What impresses Persephone is their songs about bugs, including fireflies, bumblebees, spiders and ladybugs. But it’s not just that the songs are about insects and spiders that makes it the most appealing, it’s their creative exploration of each song that leaves me wanting more. Their songs are truly unique, blending world-music with Americana, and quirky fun with serious issues. The blend of acoustic instruments played on Ladybug One gives the album a rich tapestry of unique sounds, including the didgeridoo, mbira, ukelele, harmonica, jaw harp, music saw, japanese gong, sitar, tabla and even a hula hoop! The educational opportunities (cultural, ecology, science) a parent could take with this album are multifold! Ladybug One is a new favorite of mine!

[ link to article online ]



ladybug one

Cookie Magazine clipping



"ladybug one" from harmonica pocket

Musicians going green! Who knew? Harmonica Pocket's latest album, produced in a solar-powered studio, delivers a delightful array of offbeat takes on standard children's songs and includes "Ladybug 123" - a toe-tapping ditty explaining how essential these dotted, beloved beetles are to our ecosystem. It concludes with a relaxing succession of six precious lullabies, perfect for getting your little ladybug to sleep!

Texas Family magazine clipping



Ladybug One: Indie Music for Kids

Ladybug one can best be described as “indie music for kids”, with a green solar-powered story and strong messages of conservation and acceptance weaved throughout. The theme of this disc seems to be heavily bug oriented with songs such as “The Light of the Firefly” and “Spiders in My Breakfast”. Gentle and mellow, the disc moves from slightly more upbeat “playtime” music to a series of five soothing multicultural lullabies providing you with a wide range of tracks to choose from.

This album opens with the sound effects of footsteps and murkiness. Then a little girl (listed in the credits as Odette J.) begins to share with us her scientific knowledge of Fireflies. This brief introduction is followed by the song “The light of the firefly” that has distinct influences of early 1970’s flower child music. With pleasant vocals and guitar work, it is a charming song and was a promising start to the album.

Next comes another brief interlude with that rather odd firefly girl as she and we go right into the song “spiders in mybreakfast”, which has some of the same style of the first song, but which is distinctly child oriented with fun playful lyrics about eating spiders which is sure to delight children. A brief bridge of the “Itzy-bitzy Spider”, and then this upbeat song ends with the line, “whenever you are looking for me, I’ll be, at the bottom of a bowl of Cheerios”.

Wiith “One tree said”, the mood turns decidedly melancholy as this track begins with the sounds of a chain saw and goes onto tell the story of a tree that wishes to avoid being cut down. It is orchestrated with a see-sawing use of violins and guitars. “Just let me be where I belong, just let us be where we belong. Don’t please yourself by hurting someone else, all you see is dollar signs, how can you be so blind”. Not talking just about trees, this song contains a fish as well and obviously is referencing the razing of forests and the over-fishing and depletion of our oceans. The message in this song is perhaps a bit heavy for kids, but the music is rather good. And it can be a great wakeup call for a generation that is likely going to grow up seeing local woods razed to make way for strip malls and megastores.

The next two cuts finds their way onto the topic of ladybugs with “Love a ladybug”, another science dissertation by the little girl that is hard to hear, and the slow but upbeat song “Ladybug 123” that teaches counting and speaks of a ladybug with allergies. “one, two ladybugs go floating on a yellow breeze then in the trees a tiny sneeze a ladybug with allergies” Cute. This is reprised later on the CD with an acoustic instrumental version.

The following songs include “Twinkle twinkle little star”, “Oh Susanna” (done with a sitar in an cowboy and indian style, if you can imagine) and a cut called “I love the ABC’s” that is oddly house-style and reminiscent of something that might be played inside an Casablanca opium den of some sort. It stuck us as a very odd way to get children interested in the alphabet, and seemed like it was written for another market and re-purposed here.

“Four spaces” was a charming, though all too short song about having four spaces between your toes and how the singer would accept you even if you didn’t.

By this point we began to drift off a bit as we moved into the lullabies. “La Luna” was a charming cut towards the end, a soft and airy song that made me think of being outdoors on grass in the not too hot sun. Granted, the song’s title is talking about the moon, so why it sounded more brightly lit afternoon is beyond me. But it was nice.

The packaging of Ladybug One would fit in with any adult CD collection. Cover art in a muted blue with a charming ladybug painting by Matthew Porter, this CD comes with full liner notes and lyrics and is illustrated throughout. Absent are primary colors or distinctly “for children” art. Personally, I like the style of this packaging much more. And the inclusion of lyrics is a wonderful change from other child-oriented music.

Ladybug One was produced in a solar-powered studio off the grid and Harmonica Pocket is proud to say that they only used electricity generated by the sun. Harmonica Pocket has a traveling children’s show that has played from Seattle to New York and involves a hula hoop and ukulele among other simple props. They’re definitely a quirky group.

Overall this was an enjoyable album. It will not become one of our favorites, but is an enjoyable and mostly relaxing work that can be used for lullabies and awake time as well. Its recording quality was very good, though not as crystal clear as many of the disks our ears have begun to get used to in these digital production times.
We enjoyed the messages of conservation and the little firefly girl was a cute touch.

Though there are certainly some odd artistic choices on this disk, we would recommend it. If you’re into Indie music, put it on the top of your list, it not just put it a bit further down.

[ link to article online ]



music for kids: ladybug one


It is hard to put Ladybug One by Harmonica Pocket in a category or to use just one word to describe it. Eclectic might be a good word if I had to chose just one. Ever hear "Oh Susannah" with a sitar? Well, you will if you buy this album.

I do have to give them a lot of love because the album was recorded using solar power (!) and it was also recorded right here in the Seattle area.  Unfortunately, we (the kids, The Husband, and I) weren't that excited about the album as a whole- there were definite highlights. Little Miss loves the song "Ladybug 123" and the tinkling, sparkling version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but The Husband and I were ready to climb out the car windows with the dark, brooding and repetitious "I Love the ABCs". I would still encourage you to try them out, if not for anything else, to support a family-friendly band who supports the environment.

I think they would be MUCH better live which is why I am happy to post their touring schedule and upcoming shows for the Seattle Area.

For more information please see the Harmonica Pocket website- they have a BUNCH of tour dates this Spring and Summer. Go see them live! I am sure it would be good family fun!

[ link to article online ]



ladybug one: original and organic collection of music

The Harmonica Pocket, a Puget Sound indie-rock group that proudly proclaims its new CD to be "truly green" (it was recorded in a solar-powered studio), has just released its second children's album. Ladybug One is imaginative, beautifully performed, and promotes appreciation of the natural world -- with an emphasis on a variety of insects -- in songs like "Firefly," "Spiders in My Breakfast," "One Tree Said," and "Love a Ladybug." There's also a cross-cultural twist on the song "Mere Bacche Ke Liye Lori (Lullaby for My Child)," performed in Hindi and "La Luna (the Moon)," in Spanish.

Harmonica Pocket's sound is built around the songwriting and lead vocals of Keeth Monta Apgar, with additional singing provided by Nala Walla, Jon Ryser on saxophone, and many other skilled musicians filling in the rhythmic and melodic spaces (there's even a bit of harmonica on a track or two). Apgar approaches his songwriting with a unique brand of poetry and humor; his artistry lies in an ability to make his message -- one that could easily sound heavy-handed in less skilled hands -- accessible, friendly, and fun. The Harmonica Pocket provides a breath of fresh air while flexing musical muscles strong enough to enchant family members of all ages.

[ link to article online ]



children's music blog

Ladybug One : Harmonica Pocket

This "truly green" CD was recorded at a solar-powered studio. This is the first time I've seen that kind of commitment in this genre. The sound is unique as well. Songs include old, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and new, "Firefly." Ages 2-8

[ link to article online ]



newsvine interview with the harmonica pocket about ladybug one

My inner child jumps up and down when I play good music made for children and families. Suffice to say my inner child was also smiling a lot listening to the music made by The Harmonica Pocket. I was sent the cd and I asked to interview one of the musicians involved.

I talked – via email – with Keeth Monta Apgar, who wrote all of the songs on the album.

Scott: What was your goal with this album? Did you accomplish it?

Keeth: The overall goal with Ladybug One was to create an outside-the-box album filled with familiar and new sounds that children and adults could listen to together. By "new sounds" I am referring to exploring some non-western music traditions like the North Indian Classical flavored "O Susanna" in 5/4 time, or the thumb piano piece played on an instrument called the "mbira" from Shona Zimbabwe set in 7/8 time, or the waterphone, the didgeridoo, and other fun toy instruments like the "wind wand" and kazoos. Yes, I feel like I pulled it off by bringing in some seasoned musicians and sharing the stage with the various kids' vocal performances. So far the feedback has been pretty positive, and children and their parents are coming out to our live shows already knowing the words to our songs.

What are your influences?

My influences begin with songwriters. Although I didn't "discover" the Beatles until 3 or 4 years ago, they are at the top of my list. Others include Paul Simon and his world music phases, Bob Dylan, Elliot Smith, late 60s jamaican music, Bob Marley, Ali Farka Toure, Eddie Van Halen, Sigur Ros, David Lowery from Cracker, Dave Brubeck, and anything with a horn section. More recently Jack Johnson, Iron and Wine, and Nick Drake have really inspired me with their simple, gentle music. But I can't leave out Dr. Seuss, Jim Henson, and Shel Silverstein.

Is your goal to entertain, educate or both?

Why not do a little educating while entertaining? I am trying to speak to children and their parents in an artful way about the environment, about tolerance, and about tuning in to the music of other cultures. On Ladybug One, for example, I invited my 8 year old friend Odette to present 3 scripted science lessons. So the album opens with a child instructing listeners how tiny firefly bodies are capable of creating light, and this is set to the "night time sounds" of tree frogs mating and a raven clucking, and an interesting instrument called the waterphone.

On another note I am hoping to keep alive some of the lesser-known verses of old American folk songs like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by giving them some modern arrangements that people will hopefully want to listen to. So there's this subtle teaching going on, but this project is not entirely about education. I don't want to lose track of that raw kid fun. What we're trying to do with The Harmonica Pocket children's show is to spice up the possibilities of our "adult" imaginations with some playful kid energy, plant a few educational seeds, and get gigglish with our audiences.

What does it mean when you say that the album was made "off the grid?"

To me “off the grid” refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without relying on public utilities for power, water, or sewer. We are part of a growing number of people around the world who are generating our own electricity. For Ladybug One I wanted to use renewable energy generated with solar panels for recording and mixing the music to begin reducing the carbon footprint of the album.

This was a huge learning experience, especially during the grey and soggy winter months in the Northwest. At particularly overcast times I would run the recording gear directly off the battery bank using 12 volts -- the equivalent of recording off of a car battery. It was challenging and there were many unplanned interruptions due to stormy weather.

Since we are completely of the grid, rainstorms are an opportunity to fill our water tanks, so I’m thankful for those as well. We collect rainwater off the roof of the recording studio to water the nearby garden and orchard. We also use a composting toilet system that transforms waste into a resource.

By including the recorded-with-solar-power logo, my message is “let’s continue imagining the possibilities of a more sustainable future.”

What is the best and worst part about making music for children and families?

The best parts are 1) continually meeting very open-minded people of all ages who are ready to sing, move, and who are excited to be alive, 2) not having to stay up past my bedtime to start a set of music in a nightclub at 12 o'clock midnight; 3) wearing a painted on handlebar mustache; and 4) laughing more.

The worst part is probably writing a new song, being very excited about it, but then realizing it is an "adult" song and not really for kids.

Why the focus on ladybugs versus other animals?

All of the titles for Harmonica Pocket albums, and most Harmonica Pocket songs are excerpts. I like to take a little snippet, a partial line that stands out, and highlight that with a title. Very early on in the process I was reading through the lyrics to "Ladybug 1 2 3" and paused after the number 1. Hmmmm...."Ladybug One" -- I imagined a ladybug colored rocket ship blasting through the sky. I thought that would be a good album cover.

Why ladybugs? Everyone I have talked to so far loves ladybugs, especially young children. So ladybugs were a good choice because it's an insect most people can connect with. (It was a bit weird when we performed in Hawaii because there are no ladybugs there! But, still everyone knew what ladybugs were.) I have written 3 different ladybug songs so I guess they're an insect totem of sorts for me. But when you listen to the album there's really not a huge focus on ladybugs. It is more of an insect theme -- fireflies, spiders, ladybugs, and bumblebees. If you pan out a little from the ladybug focus, the theme reveals itself as the natural world. In the end ladybugs were chosen because they are beautifully iconic, and represent organic values as discussed in track 5, "Love a Ladybug."

[ link to article online ]



now hear this, by katharine rust

Has your child's musical taste evolved beyond the FunkeyMonkeys?  Is Gustafer Yellowgold losing his luster?  Time to clear out that iPod and invest in some new music.  Luckily, a bumper crop of kids' albums is due to hit stores this month.  Here are a few of our faves...

The Harmonica Pocket, Ladybug One
The folkie, alterna-rock sound of this seattle band's second kids' compilation backs earthy lyrics about counting ladybugs, eating spiders, and a tree that just wants to be left alone.  It's hippie-dippy without being overly hokey.  Don't miss the unique version of "Oh Susanna" set to sitar and tabla drums.

Time Out New York clipping



kid's music tournament - harmonica pocket vs. johnette downing

A common misconception among many parents and other adults with kids in their immediate family is that children's music is bland, formulaic and generally mediocre (at best). For these poor souls, kid's music brings to mind only the gimmick-filled antics of Barney and The Wiggles and that being the case, it's no wonder they look down on the genre. Of course this assertion is utterly preposterous. There are more quality kiddie acts (successfully) working today than ever before - just think about the names one could spit out without even thinking too hard about it...They Might Be Giants, Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts, Elizabeth Mitchell, Gustafer Yellowgold just to name a is a great time to be a music loving kid and parent.

While most of us know modern kid's music is anything but vanilla and cookie-cutter, it is not every day we come across a record like The Harmonica Pocket's "Ladybug One". This record is a trippy, mellow affair from start to finish that is best enjoyed in your pajamas while eating a big bowl of cereal (or a granola bar) on a Sunday morning. That is the essential vibe of this quiet album of insect-themed originals and reworked favorites such as "Twinkle Twinkly Little Star" and "O Susanna". The gem of the disc is "Ladybug 123" which is featured on "Ladybug One" twice, once acoustic and again as a dub version - you don't see that every day on a kid's release!

The Harmonica Pocket employ terrific artwork and cover layout on "Ladybug One" (love the font and text positioning, the weathered/wood-worn look of the background and of course the lovely ladybug) which, along with 50+ minutes of excellent music that was recorded "green" in a solar powered studio, complete a very cool package.

Anyone who digs the Jack Johnson soundtrack to the Curious George movie will love this album.

[ link to article online ] - MARCH 16, 2008:
review: ladybug one - the harmonica pocket

I hesitate to use the phrase "the most unusual kids' album you'll hear all year," because, I assure you, no matter how unusual a particular kids music album, I've heard odder ones (don't get me started). So let me describe Ladybug One, the second kids' CD from the Seattle-area Harmonica Pocket thusly: It's the most unusual good kids' album you'll hear all year.

I hope that doesn't sound like damning with faint praise, because the album is quite good. But it's definitely not a collection of straightforward kids' pop, folk, rock, jazz, or anything else. Oh, sure, there are a few elements of that here -- the indie-pop "Spiders In My Breakfast," re-appropriated from the band's first album (for adults), and the soulful and jazzy take on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," for example, are fun tracks that don't sound too unfamiliar. "One Tree Said" sounds like a track from a future Decemberists kids' CD. But many of the other tracks veer into more challenging territory -- the psychedelic "I Love the ABCs" or the number of songs on which band mastermind Keeth Apgar explores Indian music. You might not think that "O Susanna" and sitar and tabla percussion would make a good fit, but it does, actually helping to hear the song fresh.

In fact, one of the most successful things about the album is how the wide variety of instruments here (including didgeridoo, mbira, and saw, and quite possibly my favorite, hula hoop) serve the songs, not the other way round. The instruments aren't being used to show off -- they genuinely make sense within the context of the songs. And kids will enjoy the variety of songwriting approaches -- story, metaphor, humorous, counting. It makes "Mere Bacche Ke Liye Lori," a Hindi lullaby, which could potentially come off as pretentious, sound part of a whole.

The album will be of most interest to kids ages 3 through 7. You can hear clips from the 55-minute album (many of which have been reworked from their first kids album) at the album's CDBaby page, or listen to four excellent tracks at the band's own page for its kids' music.

The Harmonica Pocket's Labybug One is unusual, but a couple spins of this low-key but well-crafted album should make many listeners aware of its numerous charms. Definitely recommended.

[ link to article online ]



baby beats: fun new tunes for kids that parents will like, too

More organic

Also set for release next Tuesday is "Ladybug One," the sophomore family music and fifth overall release from Harmonica Pocket ( Based in Washington's Puget Sound, the group is led by composer-vocalist-multi-instrumentalist-sound designer and music teacher Keeth Monta Apgar.

"Ladybug One," which was recorded at the band's solar-powered studio, revolves around natural and ecological themes. The album's sound varies from a globally influenced flavor that would be ideal as "bumper" music on NPR to a sincere power pop that would be reviewed on the hipster music Web site Pitchfork. At press time, it was set to be available at ITMS and CD Baby.

[ link to article online ]



engagement parties

Harmonica Pocket, the Marrowstone Island, Wash.-based group known around the Puget Sound for its Dr. Seuss-style literary sing-along events as much as for its toe-tapping tunes, release their second children's CD this month, Ladybug One. The album features a genre-jumping selection of classic children's songs, like “Twinkle Twinkle” and “O, Susannah,” along with catchy, quirky original tunes with an ecological bent that blend alternative pop sounds with world music cues.

[ link to article online ]



the harmonica pocket: ladybug one, written by warren truitt

As soon as I saw the Matthew Porter painting on the cover of this CD, I knew it was gonna be a winner! Ladybug One, the second collection of kids' songs from Washington State's The Harmonica Pocket, will win you over with its laid-back originals and quiet reworkings of traditional tunes. Meditative, atmospheric, gentle, inventive ... you won't hear arrangements like this on any other album for children.

The Harmonica Pocket is primarily singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Keeth Monta Apgar, and a musical cast o' plenty. He's showcased his considerable pop songwriting talents on albums like Birds Falling from the Sky and Underneath Your Umbrella, which contains the original version of "Spiders in My Breakfast". Much like Matt Pryor's The New Amsterdams and The Terrible Twos, if you like Apgar's grownup albums, yer gonna like the kids' stuff, and vice versa.

This cool little concept album revolves primarily around the idea of insects and bugs, with songs like "Firefly", "Spiders in My Breakfast", "Ladybug 123", and "Bumblebee Lullabye". But then check out these tasty tidbits: "O Susanna" in 5/4 time with sitar and tabla accompaniment; the Hindi lullaby "Mere Bacche Ke Liye Lori"; and the 55-second brilliance of "Four Spaces".

One of my favorite parts of opening a new album is reading the credits, and I love some of the instrument descriptions listed in Ladybug One: waterphone, wind wand, dixieland kazoo ... but these and other exotic instruments aren't just thrown in on a whim. Everything is woven into each song in a way that doesn't bring attention to it, and songs are made stronger by their inclusion.

Apgar closes the album with five naptime songs: the previously mentioned "Mere Bacche", the ridiculously sweet "Bumblebee Lullabye", the bilingual "La Luna", Monica Schley's pedal harp instrumental "Lucid Dream #3", and Apgar's own mbira solo called "Mbira Dreaming" ... hey!

Wonderful little songs about acceptance and love, appreciation of and respect for nature and the environment, the beauty of our world, and, of course, ABCs and 123s. A perfect present for new parents or indie music fans, Ladybug One is a great representation of Apgar's gift of melody and lyric, and hopefully this won't be his last offering to the kids' music world.

[ link to article online ]



the harmonica pocket: ladybug one

Proudly proclaiming that it was “recorded with solar power," “Ladybug One" has a relaxing, mellow vibe appropriate for any age. The subject matter is pretty simple, ranging from both acoustic and dub versions of the song “Ladybug 123" (with a preface about how important ladybugs are to the ecosystem), to the psychedelic-sounding “I Love the ABCs."

There are a few offbeat takes on the standards, the most interesting of which is a tabla- and sitar-filled “O Susannah!" that would have made George Harrison proud. The liner notes suggest the last six tracks are great for bedtime, and the succession of lullabies, including one in Hindi, is certainly calming - for kids and adults alike.

[ link to article on ]



ladybug one: the harmonica pocket

"One, two ladybugs go floating
On a yellow breeze
Then in the trees
A tiny sneeze
A ladybug with allergies
One plus two equals three"
            ---Ladybug 123

Fun indie-pop of favorites and original songs. Wonderful voices that blend together beautifully.

A gentle collection of traditional songs (“Twinkle Twinkle” the “ABCs” and “O Susanna”). Fun original songs on insects that point to the ecological importance of these helpful insects.

The album was recorded using equipment powered entirely by solar electricity and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

[ link to article online ]



HARMONICA POCKET - Birds Falling from the Sky record review
---> what's up magazine, january 2006, by Ian Chant

Alright folks, I’ve got an awful lot of good things to say here and not too much space too say ‘em in, so bear with me here, cause we’re just gonna dive right in.

Birds Falling From the Sky, the latest full length from The Harmonica Pocket is just way too good. Simple, understated indie pop, by turns folksy and funky, and always just plain pretty. These guys have their chops and don’t need to prove it, freeing them up to explore their own sound and the ways they can spin it.

Relying mostly on guitar, a full gamut of percussion tools, and a great songwriting sense for the backbone of the album, The Harmonica Pocket weaves beautiful, unpretentious pop melodies around not quite traditional folk songs to create something all their own.

Drawing from a variety of influences and genres, from folk to funk to jam and back again, Birds Falling From the Sky is strong whatever the flavor of the song.

The high points of the album are the more straight up folksy tunes, especially “Sun Maiden,” a simply but beautifully rendered ballad told in harmonica and guitar as much as in words. Songs like this and the later “Umbrella” are great counterpoints to the slightly looser, free flowing vibe of the album as a whole, which, while there are plenty of nice singles you could take away, should be properly sat down and listened to get the full feel.

Go pick this one up or just download some mp3’s from the band's website ( for a little slice of sonic heaven that will leave a fun tune running through your head all day. It’s a nice feeling, really.



--->, december 2, 2003

Harmonica Pocket serves up a catchy little number with a warm, simple combo of guitar and drums. It's truly a shame that this song has flown under the mainstream listening radar. Never fear. Somewhere out there is a Farrelly Brothers' movie in the making that will feature this playful track.

Multi-talented Keeth Monta Apgar contributes to the band's fine Seattle sound with his vocal skillz, acoustic "wah-wah geetar", and trusted harmonica. Lorne Watson anchors their tunes with some solid percussion. Take a bow, boys. You've earned it.



The Harmonica Pocket's Underneath Your Umbrella
---> dairyland, june 2003

"Underneath Your Umbrella" should come packaged with a time-stained porch, a rickety rocking chair, your favorite half-emptied bottle of whiskey, and an early afternoon thunderstorm.

By the album's opening Santana-esque guitar licks of "A Couple More Rainrops", the phone should be unplugged and the house lights off, leaving only the sound and flashing light of the storm. "The Radio" is a favorite, trying to get me off the porch and into the pouring rain to find that girl that got away. And "Spiders in My Breakfast", a children's tale, gets me back on the porch, dancing again, soaked and drunk, the way life should be.

The rains become a drizzle, eventually making room for the sun to peek through the clouds. The album's closer, "Lullaby #7", is just as its named. A kalimba-driven lullaby, letting you know that it's time to put your glass in the sink and find the closest pillow.


THE HARMONICA POCKET - Underneath Your Umbrella Album Review
---> campus talk, february 2003

Campus Talk review



---> vigilance, december 2002

Poppin' the Circuit Breaker clipping


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