CHAI: WINK (Sub Pop) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024  



Sub Pop

May 21, 2021 Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
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After a handful of runs through the United States, invariably a little American culture has started to work its way into CHAI’s repertoire. Not only that, Mana, Kana, Yuuki, and Yuna have picked up some friends along the way. CHAI made an appearance on the latest Gorillaz album and cut a single with their Spanish solidarity sisters, Hinds. On their third album, WINK—following the similarly titled PINK and PUNK—Chicago rapper Ric Wilson jumps on board for a track (“Maybe Chocolate Chips”) and other outside contributions come from producers Mndsgn and YMCK. For the most part, CHAI leaves behind the pachinko-inspired bells and whistles of their prior work to focus on a softer and more sultry approach. Shadings of R&B, hip-hop, and soul help to set the mellower mood.

One thing that is consistent with CHAI’s approach is an undying pledge to positivity and positive change. Though half a world away, the group was touched by the Black Lives Matter protests and wrote “ACTION” in tribute. Though issues are addressed with the broadest of brushes—“everything is okay”—the fat synth lines and dance floor beats make it hard not to get swept up in their optimistic outlook. On the softer side, “Nobody Knows We Are Fun,” inspired by the movie Booksmart, preaches about being taken seriously: “This is a big issue,” the band declares. The gentle bounce of the lullaby flavored “Wish Upon a Star” evidences a lot of heart and showcases thoughtful harmony vocals. If there was any fear of the group abandoning their roots, they throw in a couple of livelier numbers—the house vibe and rattle trap drums of “END” show our heroes in a particularly sassy mood and there’s always a little time for some poolside entertainment on “Ping Pong.” There are signs of maturity and mellowing afoot on WINK, but the sounds and inspirations are unmistakably CHAI being themselves. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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