By Jake Ebdale
Released March 29th, 2013 - Frequency Media
I first heard Brownhill through the upbeat, straight UB40 reggae pop of ‘Pretty Girl'. It was a nice change of pace in amongst urban radio, albeit a case of wearing their influences of their sleeve. On their debut,First Love, they take this infatuation with not so organic reggae and stretch it out into something very enjoyable. ‘I Gotta Know' is a solid opener and a promising scene setter; though the UB40/Inner Circle comparisons are still apparent, their distinct Samoan presence creates a summery, playful and instantaneous vibe. ‘She's All' is a strong tune, full of swirling, jubilant melodies about a special lady.
The harmonies from the three talented vocalists are Brownhill's major strength - they buoy many of the songs above generic reggae. Some of the instrumentation can sound dated, lifted from Skank 101, especially on the one true misstep, ‘Old Skool Lovin'' (featuring autotuned vocals that just sound wrong). On the other hand, ‘Girl, I'm in Love' is straight up 90's R&B, the most contemplative and best track on the album. ‘She Gives Her Best' is another rewarding track in a slower, soulish style, which is clearly the group's strength.
First Love won't be offering the hard subjects, but it's produced as inoffensive stuff for the urban audience, something Kiwis have grown to love and pop on without thinking - and I'm sure you'll be hearing this everywhere next summer. Obviously, love is the main thread running through the album which they deliver with a great conviction - whether they turn out to be internationally recognised, they may need to switch the beat up a bit. The main gripe is that 13 tracks, and 13 variations on one theme and tempo, grows tiresome - still, a promising, elated debut from Brownhill.
3.5 / 5