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CL picks the best of the batch

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Let the industry folks figure out for themselves which of the 200-plus acts might make them rich. These Atlantis showcase picks represent some of what our music critics figure will at least make conference attendees happy they came.

ADOM (Thurs., 1 a.m., Cotton Club) -- On paper at least, what this young Atlanta band attempts just shouldn't fly: a laid-back trip-hop groove, layered with equal parts Eno-esque atmospherics and radio-ready melodies, topped-off with a singer who evokes more than a passing vocal similarity to Sting. Egads -- pass the Motorhead discs! But amazingly, it does work, at times quite beautifully. Adom possess an ineffable originality that acknowledges musical debts without blatantly aping them. Thus while Portishead's brittle grooves permeate their songs, the band eschews Euro-cool detachment for a warmer, dare-I-say sexier groove that connects emotionally and intellectually. As for the Sting thing, let's just say that self-important, crusty old fart hasn't sounded this enthusiastic -- or downright lusty -- since he sang about hookers. Adom, throwing caution (not to mention commercial viability) to the wind, seem hellbent on pursuing their own musical path. In a world rife with cookie-cutter mentalities, that's a damn refreshing conceit indeed. (Robertson)

AUDRA AND THE ANTIDOTE (Fri., 10 p.m., Echo Lounge) -- New-wavers Audra and the Antidote may be the only band to feature a contortionist lead singer. The quirky Nashville-based group opens its set with an instrumental as frontwoman Audra Coldiron performs gravity-defying poses centerstage. Coldiron is a powerful audio/visual treat. When she's not banging chords on a Rickenbacker as her band rages behind her or using a telephone as a microphone, she's doing handstands, backbends and all sorts of athletics during the instrumental breaks. With their MP3 hit "Jenny's Got a Boyfriend" as the usual set closer, Audra and company should be just the Antidote for a cool evening of danceable and candy-coated pop rock goodies. (Smith)

BLACK MOLLYS (Sat., 9 p.m., Star Bar) -- "Kirkwood," exclaims a violent answering machine voice. The story seems urgent. Vocal lines yell out familiar Cabbagetown street names from the 7-inch vinyl. The voice is like that of some fallen teenager from a pulp junky novel looking for the all-important medication. Such are the musical paintings on a canvas placed a little left of center from most Atlanta bands. Standing nearly alone under the gone-but-not-forgotten marquee of noise rock is Atlanta's Black Mollys. Constructed from the ashes of Estrada, the Mollys look to the post-punk guitar noise of bands like the Jesus Lizard, Unsane and even vintage Nirvana as influences. Their bi-polar sound is an inviting detour to those looking for the back alley of the Atlanta music scene. (Hatcher)

DEZERAY'S HAMMER (Sat., 12 a.m., Cotton Club) -- God bless Aaron Whisnant. He has as many melodic chops as any alt-rocker of his generation (Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath included) and continues to turn out gobs of radio-ready tuneage, yet can't convince the music industry to treat him right. His vault of unreleased material (including the still-relevant, permanently shelved 1997 Universal/MCA album by his former band, Albert Hill) would be a goldmine for any label, so there's absolutely no reason why he and his Dezeray's Hammer bandmates Kenny Hogan (drums) and Chris Francisco (bass) aren't already stars. Perhaps their latest self-titled album, loaded as it is with as many hooks as Whisnant could fit into a 74-minute CD, will gain the band the airplay it deserves. Until then, the world will just have to enjoy Dezeray's Hammer onstage and on record. (York)

THE EX-HUSBANDS (Sat., 1 a.m., Echo Lounge) -- Originally from New York City, the Hubs relocated to Nashville a couple of years ago, but have found their niche on the road. After a scorching Bubbapalooza appearance in May, it'll be great to see them back in town for another hot set of hillbilly metal. Their two CDs demonstrate honky tonk know-how, but the live show really earns this band their hardcore reputation. Fine picking and vocals are perfectly complimented by a hard bassline and powerful, steady drumming. Whether whipping out a great original country tune in the style of the mid -'70s Outlaw movement or tearing through a cover of a Black Sabbath song, the Ex-Husbands prove over and over they're a band to be reckoned with. Too bad the Nashville industry is scared to death of anything so exciting. (Kelly)

FRISBIE (Sat., 10 p.m., Tabernacle) -- It doesn't take long to separate the wheat from the chaff in the guitar-jangling, chorus-hoarding, melody-loving power-pop genre, and within a few bars of "Let's Get Started" from Frisbie's debut The Subversive Sounds of Love, I knew I was hooked. Sure this Chicago quintet handily takes care of pop business (ahhh, melody!), but a refreshing fondness for subtle minor key hooks and witty lyrics distinguishes them from all the other frosh at good old Beatles U. Occupying hallowed pop ground roughly between the Hollies and Zumpano, Frisbie may be too clever by half for wide-spread, commercial acceptance, but the shame is ours, not theirs. Fellow pop nuts (and other open-minded souls) are enthusiastically pointed in their direction. (Robertson)

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