Home Grown

The Sciannas, Gene Michael Best, Until August, J.D. Simo, & Thaahum

"We are the Sciannas/We drink beer instead of wine/We are the Sciannas/We wear suits and ties."

Any band that pens its own theme song is begging to have its own cartoon series with corresponding lunch box. And the Sciannas don't disappoint -- the band's theme is a melodic doppelgänger to the Partridge Family's own mission statement, with an added reminder that "Spam is a form of swine." Immediately following, they burst into a short excerpt from the Simpsons' musical "Monorail." So no, you won't find Switchfoot-like sensitivity here -- these guys maintain the levity of the O'Kaysions, a band of North Carolinians that scored a 1968 hit with "I'm a Girl Watcher." Several gals like "Cindy" and "Sweet Marie" get ogled on We Are the Sciannas, the quartet's fun 'n' frivolous debut, which features enough drunken call-and-response backgrounds to ensure nothing ever gets too thought-provoking. One thing is for certain: If these suited men in black ever double billed with the Zen Lunatics, it might look like Tempe was in the throes of a Botany 500 invasion. (sciannas.com)

Can't tell you too much about singer-songwriter Gene Michael Best beyond the fact that he recorded his CD Real in Chandler, and it's a pleasant mix of jazzy adult contemporary with occasional New Age and psychedelic touches (you wouldn't expect "Kaleidoscope Sky" to sound zydeco, would you?). Track three, "Cry Baby Cry," musically matches the Chris Isaak-styled cover pose with emotionally charged vocals. You can buy the disc on his Web site, but don't go looking for it on Google -- all of our searches led to The Best of Michael Jackson, which at this point is career suicide. (genemichaelbest.com)

J.D. Simo, still on the other side of 20, takes a giant leap with his just-released The Other Side of Me. Not only doesn't he get to a bluesy chord progression 'til halfway through the record ("Fallin' Down," the obligatory Stevie Ray Vaughan homage), it's now the exception and not the rule. Instead of using songs as a vehicle to solo for minutes at a stretch, his songwriting is the main focus here, with the six-string providing the melodic hook. Simo wails world-wearily like someone who's been sneaking "Love on the Side" quite successfully for years. Unlike acts of teen origin, Simo's music is made to please a much older crowd, and these adult alternative grooves go a long way in maintaining their continued interest. (jdsimo.com)

While there's nothing new under the sun about Until August's Past the Sun CD, it contains consistent songwriting from singer Adam Trombley, who always comes through with a rousing singsongy chorus like Weezer, even if his lyrical take on lost love is closer to self-involved emotions with a capital EMO than something off Pinkerton. Plus it's another Flying Blanket Studios/Bob Hoag-helmed recording, so it sounds like it means what it says. (untilaugust.com)

Hip-hop artists want their props, and what makes Tempe's Thaahum and his Three Feet From Gold CD prop-worthy is that it mixes studio recordings with examples of street freestyling, complete with the dates and times they were laid out. Thaahum has pent-up anger beyond the "onstage I'm like your mother, I give it up for scratch" ranks, and it's at its best on the Dre-ishly downbeat "Drama Ills 2 Freestyle: Volume's Up," where he makes a clear case for his paternity rights to see his daughters, pictured on the insert. He demands, "Let's clear this up and play which nigga is my daddy, let's go down the list." And he does -- he names and insults eight possible players, the mother, and her father, and dares said whore and her current man to get a blood test. People can watch years of The Maury Show and not get this kind of specificity! (www.keneteph.com) -- Serene Dominic

 
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