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Bands to Watch 2006

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Every year, staffers from all four Creative Loafing and Weekly Planet papers dig through mountains of hype, buzz, website addresses and word-of-mouth recommendations to come up with 10 rising, overlooked or just plain amazing Southeastern acts for your perusal. Here's this year's yield:

Mute Math. Of the nearly 50 nominees we gathered this year, only New Orleans' Mute Math garnered a unanimous vote for inclusion in the final 10. Mute Math has been developing its original amalgam of pop, indie-rock and electro sounds for a few years now, with astounding results -- an early 2006 club tour to celebrate the release of the band's debut full-length was largely sold out. Like acts such as Brothers Past and Ambulance LTD, Mute Math refuses to stick to any particular genre, producing an ambitious, sophisticated and inimitable signature. Unlike those two examples, however, Mute Math keeps it raw, imbuing its melodic style with homemade instruments, cheesy, old-school synth sounds, and a shitload of all-ages scene energy. -- Scott Harrell

Black Diamond Heavies. Rev. John Wesley Myers -- keyboardist, preacher's son and exactly one-half of Nashville blues duo Black Diamond Heavies -- launches charm attacks with such fervor as to enslave you. He speaks and sings like a young Tom Waits, and slinks across the keys like a coked-up baboon with nothing to lose. Myers' energy alone is enough to elicit jaw-drops from audiences, but the music is what he's pinning hope on. You Damn Right, the Heavies' 2005 EP, sports grooves like a gorge and an unmistakably dirty quality. The EP features Myers sharing vocal duties with slide guitarist/harmonica player Mark "Porkchop" Holder, a big ol' white kid who co-fronted the band until recently. "He didn't want to be away from his lady," says Myers of the amicable departure, officially announced just weeks ago. Now touring as a two-piece with beat destroyer Van Campbell (and occasionally his other band, the Immortal Lee County Killers), Myers looks to baptize the nation -- nay, the world -- via ass-shaking jams. -- Mark Sanders

Beitthemeans. Alabama gets the shit end of the rock stick, you know? The land of cotton is better known for segregation and space museums than it is for its burgeoning young rock bands. Verbena made a blip on the radars a few years back. Northstar had its brief MTV2 time. Not much else, though (and no, "American Idol"-ist Bo Bice doesn't count). Beitthemeans, a Southern rock group hailing from Birmingham, may be the Heart of Dixie's next big hope. Standing at the intersection of Skynyrd and Zeppelin, the group's unapologetic taste for Marshall stacks and songs about girls (particularly the heartbreaking kind) offer redemption for listeners sick of irony and pretentious, statement-about-the-world acts. These guys are the real deal, worth every can of shitty beer you should buy them after their concert. -- Mark Sanders

Daikaiju. Where the hell does a band from Huntsville, Ala., get off playing music as weird as this? Daikaiju, a cosmic/psychedelic/noisy surf-rock band from the Appalachian foothills, is a playfully mysterious foursome. But the mystique extends beyond geography: Band members have names like Brain Conflict and Dymaxion Lee, and accordingly, each wear masks straight out of a Kabuki play. Daikaiju (Japanese for "giant monster") adds to the -- sorry to say it, kids -- boring surf-music canon by loosening the reins a bit. Drummer Mr. Nein bucks the tradition of straight-ahead surf drumming, invoking the wrath of Mothra with unexpected fills that sound more influenced by big-band jazz than rock. The rest of the band follows suit, formulating songs (in gloriously reverb-laden detail) as though they were epic stories, or end-music to a great video game. For those of the generation who can still hum the credits to Contra or Blades of Steel, this is quite a compliment, indeed. -- Mark Sanders

Algebra Blessett. Not only is soul vocalist Algebra the first act from Kedar Entertainment Group (the label fronted by former D'Angelo manager Kedar Massenburg), the Atlanta-based artist may finally convince folks that neo-soul is more than incense and sandals. Bucking clichés, you won't find Algebra sitting on a stool singing sappy acoustic tunes. Instead, she prances around on stage with a bombastic band and infuses her funky midtempo grooves with the energy of hip-hop and the rootsy appeal of the blues. Her debut CD drops in June. -- Carlton Hargro

Shock Cinema. In less than a year, Shock Cinema has transcended post-punk clichés by marrying nihilistic rock with cinematic violence. Squelching guitars and drawn-out rhythms evoke everyone from Can to Glass Candy, while scenes from films like A Clockwork Orange and Psycho play out behind the group on stage. Atlanta-based avant-garde MC Zano, and national acts Supersystem, the Jai-Alai Savant and Subtile, all have collaborations with Shock Cinema in the works. Recent lineup changes resulted in a new frontwoman, Destiny Montague. And in July, Shock Cinema will release the Amor y Muerte EP on Thick Records, featuring remixes by Death From Above 1979, Pretty Girls Make Graves and others. -- Chad Radford

Asamov. Jacksonville, Fla., may not have much of a reputation for hot-shit underground hip-hop, but this four-piece group has the talent to put the city on the map. Last year's cruelly overlooked And Now ... is a boom-bap blast of true-school rhymes and solid production. What's most impressive about the group is that it relies very little on outside help: Only one track features an outside producer (the producer in question is the highly esteemed 9th Wonder). And better-known friends like Mr. Lif, Akrobatik and J-Live stop by for guest spots that hardly overwhelm Asamov's own stanzas. As for the Diddys of the world? "We eat these MCs up until the food is gone/That shit ain't no good, like an expired coupon." -- Cooper Lane Baker

Summerbirds in the Cellar. Bands like this one keep proving that the bread and butter of indie rock can still provide thrills. Yes, you've certainly heard Summerbirds' bubbling drums, icy guitars and detached lead singer before. But that matters little when the band pens such swoon-worthy tunes. "Behold the Wolf" is particularly noteworthy, as it trades rapid guitar raves and weary vocals to spectacular effect. In the fractured and factional indie-rock world, where math-rock jostles with power pop for MySpace dominance, is there still an appetite for Summerbirds? There should be. -- Cooper Lane Baker

Carolina Chocolate Drops. The Carolina Chocolate Drops -- consisting of regional natives Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson plus Arizonan Dom Flemons -- are a vital part of the black string renaissance. Collectively, they gather diverse knowledge of the blues, country and string-band traditions -- especially Carolina Piedmont sounds. And recordings of antebellum banjo and fiddle repertoire like "Corn Likker" show the group's mastery. Giddens (banjo, fiddle), Robinson (fiddle) and Flemons (harmonica, jug, guitar) also continue to apprentice with N.C. fiddle legend Joe Thompson. In Thompson's wake, the Drops strive to reknit the lost threads of string-band music, which has existed in Africa as well as Appalachia for centuries. -- Kandia Crazy Horse

The Sammies. Charlotte's music scene is vibrant but in search of a catalyst to take it to the next stage. Among acts that have been touted as worthy enough to transform the Queen City into a rockbiz satellite like early-1990s Seattle are the Sammies, based on the local MoRisen label. With a SXSW 2006 appearance under their belt and their debut dropping June 27, this indie Southern rock quartet may just pull it off. Sammies Frank Backgammon (guitar, vocals), Gymmy Thunderbird (bass), Donnie Yale (drums, vocals) and Murphy Upshaw (guitar, vocals) bring garage aesthetics and intensity to such hot tracks as "Caretaker." And their MySpace site claims they sound like sex. Well, arousal should be on everyone's menu. -- Kandia Crazy Horse

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