CHAI WINK Sub Pop
CHAI’s songs are good for your body, and not in a gross, charcoal smoothie way. The Japanese four-piece have a magical ability to write about sweet, sincere topics – usually food, friends, and self-esteem – without ever getting sickly. The layered noise and rebellious group vocals on their vivid debut album PINK laid out their mission: to reclaim kawaii from Japan’s restrictive beauty standards. 2019’s follow-up PUNK took their “new cute” vision to even more raucous heights. But now the band – twins MANA (vocals, keys) and KANA (guitar), bassist/lyricist YUUKI and drummer YUNA – have turned their attention inwards.
WINK is their most homely record, and the most surprising. CHAI’s raw energy has been dialled back just a little, revealing a new level of nuance in their songwriting. Jagged hooks and sugary riffs are replaced by whispered harmonies, soft synths and bodily R&B – IN PINK has a laidback, sultry swagger and 80s throwback Miracle might be their prettiest song yet. It fits that they cite The Internet as a major influence this time around.
Still, the band’s dedication to kitschy, snack-related puns remains intact: Maybe Chocolate Chips uses choc-chip sprinkles to help YUUKI learn to love her moles, which is the most CHAI a song could be. But best of all is insomnia lullaby Wish Upon a Star and the domestic, intimate Salty, with its quiet kitchen clatter. While we wait to hold our loved ones close, WINK is a healing, heartfelt reminder of the strength found in friendship.