Is it just us, or do this year's New Zealand Music Month celebrations feel bigger, bolder and a little better organised than in the past?

Perhaps that's because, thanks to a North Shore lass now better known as Taylor Swift's bestie, Kiwi music truly is under the global spotlight these days.

Visits from international media - including Rolling Stone magazine and news station CNN - asking how the heck Lorde did what she did from little old New Zealand, can do that to a previously minor player on the international music scene.

Lorde doesn't feature in this year's celebrations, but there's still a certain international flavour to proceedings, what with the Naked and Famous plotting two Auckland shows mid-month, which come just weeks after their heroic achievements at Coachella. Their main stage slots earned the Kiwi alt-rockers rave reviews.


Then there's Kimbra's surprise double-act with Janelle Monae at Vector Arena later in the month, a show that came from a chance jam session at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It's an interesting idea, and judging by their Rock Steady single, it should go down a treat.

Yes, those are the big names coming to town, but here at TimeOut we also like celebrating the smaller acts, the up-and-comers, the ones you might have missed, and the minor acts working in the fringes. (Note how we cleverly avoided "the next Lorde" tag there. Oh).

That's why, in these pages today, you'll find our top five picks for our favourite fresh Kiwi faces, with the likes of Wellington's soul-stirrer Estere, brainiac North Shore rap kid Randa and Lyttelton folkster Aldous Harding all making the cut. On pages 6 and 7 you'll also find a tour diary from Tiny Ruins, who has been on the road in the UK with Neil Finn, as well as an intimate first-person perspective from Great North frontman Hayden Donnell on what it takes to make an album. A handshake with Bruce Springsteen isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently.

We'll be covering more Kiwi acts during the month too, and there's lots happening online - including the launch of Grayson Gilmour's Sundae Sessions on May 15.

So let's hope that this is the year that the grump at the back of the class stops mumbling things like, "New Zealand Music Month - what's the point?" because this May it feels like that debate can die a swift death.

There's just too much going on to worry about it ...

1. Free grooves: This year's festivities kick off with two free shows as part of the Beck's Sets in Auckland: Lawrence Arabia performs at Britomart's Takutai Square from 12.15pm; while things get a little more raucous around 8pm at Tyler Street Garage when She's So Rad, Delete Delete and Paquin perform. If you can't make it along, the evening show will be live streamed on along with interviews with each band. Visit Beck's NZ Facebook page for more information on other Beck's shows.

2. Get some goodies: Everyone knows New Zealand music rules, but this is as good excuse as any to get your hands on some fresh local sounds. Key album releases this month include the Kody Neilson-produced Blues & Oranges from psychedelic power-pop act Sherpa, a new EP called Tom's Lunch from those consistently beardy Wellingtonians the Phoenix Foundation, the anticipated newbie Up in Smoke from country-fied Auckland folksters Great North, and the whimsical musings of Tiny Ruins' Brightly Painted One.

3. Treat your ears: Our live picks include Kimbra's double-act with Janelle Monae at Vector on May 24, Coachella standouts the Naked and Famous at the Powerstation on May 16 and 17, and Lawrence Arabia playing several of his albums in full at the Kings Arms on May 28 and 29. Then there's Dave Dobbyn's Dreams Lie Deeper, his Pike River tribute show at the Michael Fowler Centre on May 10.

4. Pop some corks: Kiwi record label Dawn Raid turned 15 last month, and now it's Arch Hill's turn - but there'll probably be a few more ironic moustaches at these celebrations. Some of the Auckland-based label's best acts will help boost the noise levels, including Don McGlashan, Ghost Wave, Street Chant, the Transistors, Surf City and Doprah. It kicks off at the Kings Arms on May 30 from 8pm.

5. It's not just music: If your ears need a rest from all of that noise, that's sorted too. The Music Month Summit is at the Auckland Museum's auditorium on May 24 and features plenty of keynote speakers - including Lorde's manager Scott Maclachlan. He's no doubt got a few stories to tell these days. Meanwhile, Dave McArtney's Gutter Black book is launched as part of the Auckland Writers Festival on May 16 at the Aotea Centre, while Tyler Street Garage unveils their Art of the Album Cover exhibition from May 20. And most of the city's libraries will have New Zealand music features displayed prominently.

For more information visit

- TimeOut