EP Review: Itty Bitty Bubbles - Itty Bitty Beats
Itty Bitty Beats is the brainchild of Jenny Payne and Lucy Hiku, an award-winning musical duo from New Zealand. Since their formation in 2014, they have delivered their own brand of unique children's pop, attaining global appeal and deservedly so. They are indeed as prolific as they are entertaining, and their new EP "Itty Bitty Bubbles" features six original compositions, propelling the listener on a sea of nostalgia through a charming fusion of sprightly melodies, luscious harmonies and superb production.
The EP opens in fine form with the gentle and endearing title track, featuring some intricate guitar work, a joyful vocal delivery, and a mesmerising array of sounds. The delivery is sweet and uplifting, and has a noticeable sixties influence. It is a song guaranteed to transform the darkest of moods, with its delightful melody and singalong chorus. The appeal of the song lies in its innocent simplicity and its world class vocal delivery, which really has to be heard to be believed.
"Bubble Shop" blasts out of the speakers in true Chuck Berry style, with a sparse rhythm providing the necessary space for some truly inspiring guitar playing. The song is again simple and effective, with lyrics describing the prosaic act of purchasing bubbles, where we 'drop our coins on the counter shop', to buy some 'bubbles for me and bubbles for you'. The song celebrates the joy children find in the simplest of things, whilst also further reminding us of the magic appeal of bubbles to children.
"Blowing Bubbles With My Teddy Bear" begins with a hypnotic piano, sitting alongside a wistful vocal, which repeats the song title very effectively. The keyboard solo is quite superb and reminded me a little of the late Ray Manzerak. The lyrics are very descriptive throughout, and 'rise like steam and fall like rain' towards the end, delivered with a vocal performance that would sit comfortably on a Janice Joplin album.
"Bubble Storm" begins with an atmospheric flourish before it transforms itself into a kind of Walt Disney ditty. Here we are informed that 'you don't need an umbrella in a bubble storm', because in this world the 'bubble storm' is welcomed and is indeed something to be treasured. The song includes an inspired string section, providing additional rhythm and atmosphere, as the lyrics continue to remind us that instead of 'lightning there's laughter, ' and their role is in 'spreading cheer' not fear. When I heard the song it reminded me of fifties American movies, with maybe Gene Kelly playing a starring role, where life was perhaps less complex, and children were less reliant on technology for their entertainment.
"Blowing Bubbles in My Bath Tub', bounces along in fine style with some delightful harmonies, that support the melody throughout superbly. The bass and drums create the space for the clinical clarity of the guitar solo paying homage to Bill Haley along the way. The song is pure rhythm and blues, delivered with a lyrical flavouring specially for the kids, where we get to 'splash and splash' as we blow 'bubbles in my bath tub'.
The EP finishes with the very impressive '"I Love Watching Bubbles"', where strings meet harmony with a warm embrace. A very emotive ballad, with a melancholy delivery which describes the simple act of observing bubbles through the eyes of a child who gets to watch 'bubbles day and night'. Again the harmonies are breathtaking, and would even give the Everly Brothers a run for their money.
If you're a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, Herman's Hermits, the Zombies or the type of guitar licks that made Chuck Berry famous then you will absolutely love this EP. The band take us on a trip down memory lane, capturing a retro vibe, and catapulting it in to the twenty-first century. The lyrics are aimed squarely at the kids, and succeed in igniting their infinite imaginations. In essence, the EP takes the listener on a musical journey where the bubbles are identified, then purchased then blown, before being described and finally observed. The EP succeeds in creating a world where imagination is king, and fear dissipates 'in a bubble storm'.
Itty Bitty Beats - back to the future.
Christmas in Summer by Suzy Cato and Itty Bitty Beats
It's a sunny summer's Christmas Day in New Zealand. Santa is having a fun day at the beach, surfing and cooking a barbecue for Mrs Claus and his reindeer.
This catchy new sing-along song by well-known New Zealand entertainer Suzy Cato and the Itty Bitty Beats will be a hit. Finally, there's a song and book that reflects Christmas Day as we know it in New Zealand - in summer, not a snowflake in sight.
It's a very simple song, which little ones will pick up quickly. The song is available to download or stream, and Cato and the Itty Bitty Beats duo (Jenny Payne and Lucy Hiku) have also made a fun video to accompany the song.
Carla Martell's whimsical and quirky illustrations, in a fresh and funky palette, offer much for young readers to spot. There's plenty of Kiwi icons - bright pōhutukawa blooms, flitting pīwakawaka, and puffy pavlova. But hidden within those uniquely New Zealand scenes, there's classic Christmas icons too - with snowmen, Santa hats and Christmas tree ornaments hiding within the pages.
It might not seem like such a big deal, but any New Zealand parent will tell you it can be a little confusing for our little people come Christmas. There's winter themes galore, and it can be very hard to find things that reflect our reality. Christmas in Summer ticks that box, making it a great gift for any younger Kiwi reader.
Christmas in Summer is a fun and upbeat book and song that is bound to put a smile on your face. It's been an incredible year. This book will add a bit of much needed spontaneity and joy, and a Kiwi flavour, to Christmas this year.