Spymob, with N.E.R.D., the Roots and Kelis

John Ostby, lead singer of the band Spymob, must be a Cancer. Three of the 12 tracks (all Ostby-penned) on the group's debut, Sitting Around Keeping Score, belie the mommy issues of those born under a crab sun. On "Thinking of Someone Else," Ostby laments a broken toe while wishing he were still a youngster getting his mother's magic touch. Then, while trying to pick up some girl, he readily admits, "I Still Live at Home."

Ostby met drummer Eric Fawcett in college, where their love for Steely Dan and the Police formed the basis of their friendship. Fawcett and Ostby started a band, and after honing their craft for a time in the usual seedy holes-in-the-wall, their demo found its way to Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes. After that it was on and poppin'. Ostby sang backup for a Neptunes'-produced Kelis song, and then the group found critical acclaim as the backing band for the Neptunes on their N.E.R.D. album, In Search Of… After signing with Arista's Star Trak label, Spymob now finds itself on a world tour, rocking the stage behind N.E.R.D. and wooing crowds with its own mellow pop-rock.

Sitting Around is a cool, refreshing mélange of sounds. Where the N.E.R.D. album sounded like somebody on the verge of a much-needed trip to rehab, Sitting Around is pure pop, albeit intellectualized and marked with aggressive undercurrents. Ostby's voice is mellow and rather nostalgic, and guitarist Brent Paschke balances Ostby's pop piano style with a hard rock influence. Overall, the album puts you in the mind of childhood Saturdays in the park, back when you wished you were 19 and you didn't know that the grass is no greener on the other side of high school.

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Felicia Johnson-LeBlanc