"Snack time" is a good time

So our friend Raechel presented us a few weeks ago with the Barenaked Ladies’ new album -- “Snack time”

I’ve been listening to it repeatedly, and the most important thing I can say is this: Whether you’re a BNL fan, or a parent of young children -- get it!

Leave it to BNL to pull off an album that not only feels great on the adult ears, but an album that’s loaded with whimsical, kid-friendly sounds and lyrics.

The songs are filled with the signature BNL rock sound and sunny Beach Boy-like harmonies -- and the quirky dialogue a la “If I Had A Million Dollars.” And yet, a ton of the songs also are ready-made for a “Sesame Street” sing-along.

Only a rock band like BNL could sing about everyday things like erasers and allergies and lament the struggles of hand-me-downs (“My Big Sister”) and not being able to talk to your dog …

The album starts with the grouchy "7-8-9" (as in seven ate nine) and keeps on, drawing on flavors of rock, ’80s synth pop, a little bluegrass (“I Can Sing”) and a samba sound in one of my favorites on the album, “Polywog in a Bog.” … “Raisins” is a great, singable tune with a whistling chorus … The relaxing “Louis Lou” and the somber/so relatable “Bad Day” are other strong faves … “Humungous Tree” sounds like a new-agey Burt Bacharach tune.

The real gem on the album, though, is the Canadian Snacktime Trilogy -- a trio of sweet songs that starts with the title track. The first half of the song keys on a celebration of snack time and a cheeky spoken lyric -- “Talkin' ‘bout snack time.” Then, as the song winds down, a series of people are heard calling in their favorite snacks -- including a darling little boy who says his favorite snack is craaaaaaackers! We hear from callers who like lobster, salt and a vinegar chips, Japanese rice cakes and microwaved chocolate donuts. We hear from a robot and even Gordon Lightfoot -- to which my initial reaction was: Was that really Gordon Lightfoot!?

Part II of the trilogy is “Popcorn” -- a song on which just one word makes up almost all of the song. And still the guys succeed at conjuring a excitement of cooking popcorn, and it totally rocks … Then the trilogy concludes with the soothing/cooling “Vegetable Town.”

The album wouldn’t be complete, of course, without some good BNL humor. That can be found on second-to-last track, “Crazy ABC’s,” which features Ed Robertson teaching the alphabet with a collection of non-traditional words would challenge a decent Scrabble player (B is for bdellium, C is for czar, E for Euphrates, G for Gnarly, M for mnemonic … and you get the idea) … The humor really kicks in with fellow BNL member Steven Page’s retorts …

Ed: L is for llama
Steven: What's so strange about llama?
Ed: Llama, it starts with two L's
Steven: What's the second one for?
Ed: No idea.
Steven: I know, loser.
I need to say no more. “Snack time” is worth eating up.

* * *

A couple other albums of note I’ve recently acquired …

Scarlett Johansson’s “Anywhere I Lay My Head” … I have to say I knew almost nothing about this album other than the fact Scarlett was putting it out. I honestly didn’t know what to expect … But a couple minutes into the first track and the heavy brass, I had to double-check the CD cover to make sure I was listening to Scarlett Johansson – the actress. It’s not the poppy, summer-lovin’ style of music we’ve become accustomed to from the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton… Not even close.

Instead it has a cool indie vibe. I like the sultry, jazz zinger sound on the second track … though you have to be in a matching mood to listen and fully enjoy it, I think. So goes much of the album …

Some of the songs are ready made for Grey’s Anatomy (“Fannin Street,” “Song for Jo”), while “I Wish I was in New Orleans” is sort of a relaxing, twinkling tune … But a much-needed upbeat song doesn’t come until the ninth track, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up.”

It’s a worthy effort, but it’s not something I’m going to pop in again and again. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Death Cab For Cutie’s “Narrow Stairs” … I know there are some fanatical Death Cab fans out there. I am not one of them, but they do intrigue me. So let it be known that “Narrow Stairs” was a much-welcomed addition to my library (thanks again, Raechel).

It too has been getting a lot of play from me lately, and it has me making a lot of comparisons to The Shins “Wincing the Night Away” album and -- believe it or not -- “Smile”-era Brian Wilson. My favorite song on the album, “You Can Do Better Than Me,” totally gets me thinking it could easily fit somewhere on “Pet Sounds.”

From top to bottom, “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” “No Sunlight,” and “Cath …” to “Your New Twin-Sized Bed” -- the album is chock full of great, great songs. Then, to cap it, they read aloud every single word of the album credits -- genius.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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