CHAI Add Contemplation to Their Manic Sweetness on 'WINK'

BY Adam FinkPublished May 17, 2021

CHAI are a whirlwind of a band. The Japanese quartet of identical twins MANA and KANA, YUNA and YUUKI deal in the kind of joyful abandon that seems to be pretty absent in music these days. Known for their raucous live shows that feature the group in matching outfits, partaking in choreographed dance moves and showing off their enviable musicianship, CHAI have become a breath of fresh air in the world of indie music.

When the pandemic hit, CHAI decided to start crafting a new set of songs, something perhaps a bit subtler and more introspective than their previous output. The outcome is their third album, WINK. While WINK may be on the more contemplative side of where the band usually toils, it is still a playful blend of genre-hopping manic sweetness.

Into chiptune? Check out the 8-bit pop of "PING PONG!" Contemporary hip-hop? Look no further than "Maybe Chocolate Chips," which features a tight and very smooth guest turn from Chicago rapper Ric Wilson. House music your thing? Listen to the concussed, underwater groove of "Nobody Knows We Are Fun." While all this cross-pollination of genres seems like it would make a confusing listen, CHAI have a way of distilling all these disparate influences into something that sounds wholly their own. 

Musically, CHAI would've fit in perfectly with the rest of the Grand Royal roster that the Beastie Boys assembled in the 1990s, and they also share a lot of those groups' political acumen. Known in Japan for challenging their listeners to subvert their standards and expectations of beauty and cuteness, on WINK they extend their songwriting activism to a much broader global pursuit. Lead single "ACTION," with its harmonized refrain of "Action is more than words," serves as a direct response to seeing the Black Lives Matter protests unfold all over the world in 2020. 

Totally original, completely unselfconscious and wonderfully catchy, WINK is one of those rare albums that you can throw on anytime and let it guide you on the journey it has laid out before you. Here's hoping that we can all experience this whirlwind live and in-person as soon as possible.
(Sub Pop)

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