Jeff Forney

While we’ve been breathlessly cataloging the piecemeal English invasion (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Florence and the Machine) or anticipating a French revolution (post-Phoenix), a sea of fresh-faced, upbeat, melody-laden indie rock has been brewing in New Zealand, the little isle under the Down Under. With a crop of releases and tours in the near future, 2011 could become the year that Kiwi bands finally migrate north. Here, a look at some of the more accessible, irresistible ear candy they have to offer.

The Naked and Famous

Boasting an already impressive arsenal of swelling, buoyant synth-pop tracks—in particular, the sticky single “Young Blood”—Passive Me, Aggressive You, the debut album from this band of early twentysomethings, could make them the isle’s next great claim to fame. (The album hasn’t officially been released Stateside, but it is available for purchase on their bandcamp page.) Though the Auckland act’s name references a lyric from trip-hop pioneer Tricky, The Naked and Famous more obviously reference MGMT and Passion Pit—craftsmen of transcendent tunes versed in both escapism and dance.

Zowie

The term "electro-rap" can be an embattled one (Ke$ha, LMFAO), but this female solo artist (real name: Zoe Fleury) lends it intrigue by underscoring tracks like “Love Demolition” with darker, more aggressive beats and keyboards. Not surprisingly, she has opened for genre-expanding artists such as Peaches and The Kills. (Her stripped-down sound and cool, futuristic look also got her signed to Sony.) Though she has yet to drop an album, Zowie made her live debut Stateside at CMJ earlier this year. It was met first with curiosity about how this creature from a faraway land would come off in person (answer: surprisingly charming), then with anticipation over what’s coming next from her.

Surf City

Bloggers picked up on this lo-fi rock band (formerly called Kill Surf City, like the Jesus and Mary Chain song) two years ago, voicing enthusiastic approval over their affinity for updating the casual, indie-punk legacy pioneered by underappreciated acts found on Flying Nun records, the seminal Kiwi imprint. Surf City is finally set to release its first album soon. If new single, “Kudos,” is any indication, it’ll be a celebration of jangly ’90s guitars and messy, Pavement-y melodies.

Bang Bang Eche

A post-punk/dance act that’s heavily influenced by Gang of Four, Bang Bang Eche has dropped two EPs over the past two years, and has steadily tested out that material live everywhere from Australia to Europe to the United States. The group garnered word-of-mouth for its energetic shows—which frequently found frontman T’Nealle Worsley jumping into the audience—leading MTV Iggy (MTV’s international arm) to name Bang Bang Eche one of 2010’s “best new bands in the world.”

Kids of 88

These dudes from Auckland describe their sound as “a cross between a late ’80s police drama intro theme and a sophisticated super hussy.” What that actually means: sticky pop melodies, crunchy synths, and buoyant beats. The duo released their first album, Sugarpills, this year and are currently on tour spreading their unrelenting brand of happiness in Europe, thanks to giddy, anthemic dance singles such as “My House.”