Actress. Though hailing from the country-loving town of Chattanooga, Tenn., Actress professes a love for keyboards unlike most bands since, well, those acts whom the group most closely resembles. Which bands, you ask? In lighter moments (of which there are few), Actress brings to mind the synth-heavy, Notorious-era style of Duran Duran; at darker times, the nihilistic, acerbic rock of New Order. Fronted by Aaron Ficchi and aided by fellow Bible Belt-ers Todd Bridges, Josh Ficchi and Travis Knight, Actress is proof positive that not everything from Tennessee is banjos and dirt roads. — Mark Sanders
For more info: www.myspace.com/actress.
Baleen. Baleen began life as an instrumental trio in Chapel Hill, N.C., before relocating to Charlotte and adding key personnel on alto sax, keys and bass. The quintet, with one founding member left in the fold, quickly became a mainstay on the local scene, packing shows with its unique blend of progressive rock, jazz, electronica and R&B. Soundtrack to a Normal Life, a 2002 release, garnered much critical acclaim and earned the band gigs up and down the East Coast. The group's latest, 2004's Sedate Everyone So You Get Away With Anything, includes elements of techno, sampling, acoustic balladry, rock, soul, jazz and funk, as well as a pitch-perfect Can cover ("Vitamin C") that hints at the band's phenomenal live prowess. — John Schacht
For more info: www.baleen.net.
Des Ark. Unlike their more famous boy/girl duet contemporaries, Tim Herzog and Aimee Argote's songs venture far beyond stripped-down blues-rock. Featuring Argote's angular guitar and passionate vocals, and Herzog's expert drumming, Durham, N.C.'s Des Ark will remind you of Shannon Wright, Shellac and Blonde Redhead in the space of a single song. In its three years together, the band has built a strong local following in the Triangle, and toured throughout the U.S. and Japan. The debut full-length, Loose Lips Sink Ships (2005), was recorded by J. Mascis, and veers all over the rock map, from quiet folk ballads to tumultuous punk dissonance. Whatever the formula or genre, the duo's passion and chops grab your attention from note one. — John Schacht
For more info: www.des-ark.org.
Divinity. Fortunately, there's more to Divinity than a pretty bass. At the recent A3C Independent Hip-Hop Festival, one lucky fan held tight to a Divinity T-shirt, happy to get her hands on a piece of the woman whose funk/rock/rhyme style has had cats open since her California college days. Here in Atlanta, catch Divinity live at Smith's Olde Bar or the Loft, or check a toned-down version of her skills every Tuesday as part of the BFD Band at Apache Café's Mic Club (she might even spit a rhyme or two if so moved). A rarity among rock-inclined musicians as an African-American female, Divinity is known to move crowds with sincere and sometimes sassy lyrics, tons of energy and a straightforward blend of rock and funk. She works hard on stage, wielding her guitar with just as much strength and know-how as sex appeal. This MC is literally schoolin' folks. Only serious students need apply. — T. LaGon
For more info: www.mcdivinity.com.
Dumbwaiters. Throughout the group's nearly 10 years together, Tampa's Dumbwaiters haven't so much found a unique sound as screwed around with elements of everyone else's, then moved on; it's all about the journey for this raw yet intelligent indie-rock act. On the new album Musick, the group mashes up Krautrock-inspired repetition with innovative arrangements and monolithic guitars. Already a cult favorite nationwide, the group is in the opening stages of a PR salvo that just might break them through to widespread indie-scene notoriety. — Scott Harrell
For more info: screwmusicforever.dreamhost.com/dumbwaiters/.
Konkrete. Atlanta may still seem more country than city to some folks, but there's nothing pastoral about rap trio Konkrete. After being signed to Purple Ribbon — the new label venture of OutKast's Big Boi — Cory "Black-Owned C-Bone" Andrews, Nathaniel "Supa Nate" Elder, and James "Lil Brotha" Patton have been grinding it out, doing shows and making appearances on a number of mix tapes, most notably Purple Ribbon's Got That Purp. As for how the threesome got the hook-up with Big Boi, well, "Lil Brotha" Patton is indeed Big Boi's younger bro'. But one listen to joints like "Speaks Out" and "Beef (Hot)" show that he and his crew can hold their own. — Ronda Racha Penrice
Eliot Morris. Mobile, Ala., native Eliot Morris is on the cusp of breaking nationally, buoyed by a strong, self-titled debut album recorded in 2002. Since that time, Morris (who now lives in Nashville, presumably for his career) has perfected his unapologetically James Taylor-influenced chops. Indeed, Universal Music Group subsidiary Strummer offered him a development deal, and as of last December, Morris began recording his major-label debut in a Los Angeles studio. Catch him at the coffee shop down the street, before he blows up and graduates to "arena" status. — Mark Sanders
For more info: www.eliotmorris.com.
The Nein. The Nein, based in Durham, N.C., rose from the ashes of White Octave in 2003, and have been turning heads in the Triangle since then with a rich, bass-heavy sound in the vein of Interpol (and its antecedents). The group combines those influences with more math rock elements. The trio released a six-song, self-titled EP in 2004, then added sound manipulator Dale Flattum to the fold. His tape loops and samples bring a more ambient feel to the band's upcoming (May 17) full-length debut, Wrath of Circuits, a discomforting but highly engaging look at technological fears. It proves the Nein to be a band capable of both harsh dissonance and exquisite melodicism. — John Schacht
For more info: www.thenein.com.
Science-Non-Fiction. This young Sarasota, Fla.-based hip-hop crew was weaned on the independent "backpack" rap scene, and it shows. Creative beats and idiosyncratic, poetic, socially aware lyrics characterize the group's complex approach. About the only thing the group has in common with the thuggish, blinged-out vapidity of mainstream hip-hop is that they are also able to get asses moving. Science-Non-Fiction tours regularly, and is quickly becoming plugged into a largely unsung coast-to-coast network of thoughtful, culturally conscious DJs, MCs and fans who are less concerned about "Pimp My Ride" than they are making new, substantial sounds. — Scott Harell
For more info: sciencenonfiction.com.
Snowden. Atlanta four-piece Snowden are not to be trifled with. The group takes seriousness seriously, as evidenced by its slow, caustic tales of lost loves and broken dreams. New wave guitars mesh with that infectious lock-step drumming the raver kids adore so much, resulting in a hybrid sound that's neither too derivative nor too quirky. Lead singer/guitarist Jordon Jeffares' moan is formidable, at times recalling the Cure's Robert Smith — that is, if Smith were a Southern boy. — Mark Sanders
For more info: www.snowden.info.