Kai Brown

Better Now

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Not to be confused with the gospel artist who records under the name Min. Kai Brown, this Kai Brown is an Australian-born, California-based singer/songwriter in the mold of such American power poppers as Owsley, Doug Powell, and Michael Penn's less moody side. His debut album, Better Now, takes most of its cues from the early-'70s version of power pop, with strong echoes of the Raspberries and Badfinger, but Brown is no mere revivalist. From the bracing rush of the anthemic opener, "The Pain," to the tender, largely acoustic ballad "Always" ten tracks later, Brown shows a knack for tunes and arrangements that vaguely recall everyone from Todd Rundgren to the Smithereens, while never resorting to mere mimicry. Songs like the impassioned "Goodbye Goodnight" (one of several songs co-written with producer Cary Pierce, a solo artist in his own right) lack the retro feel that dooms much contemporary power pop; it, like most of the album, would sound right at home on the radio next to Maroon 5. A self-released album by a new artist is unlikely to reach those commercial heights, of course, but the more mainstream end of the pop underground will find much to like here.

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