With their first release on Sub Pop, CHAI enter the arena with their third studio album, 'WINK'. Tapping into minimalistic tendencies and utilising the time the past year has offered them, this album has captured what it is to be free, even if the world around you enters into turmoil. As Yuuki explained, “A person who winks is a person who is free.”
And with the societal limitations that CHAI have emerged from, a call towards freedom seems appropriate. As with most women, across the world, CHAI have faced many a challenge due to their gender, with Japanese culture specifically leaning towards an expectation of cuteness rather than progressive creatorship and intelligence.
Exhausted by the labels they run from, but still determined to make a creative stamp on the world around them, CHAI push back. With their eccentric outfits, buoyant personalities and superb lyricism, they’re breaking down the wall brick by brick.
‘Maybe Chocolate Chips’ is a very appropriate self-love anthem, the product of YUUKI’s journey to see her moles in a different light, rejecting “beauty myths” and finding her own truth.
2020 saw them rethink a lot more than their self-perception, with the change in circumstances dually leading to a shift in production. Accessing software such as GarageBand and writing over Zoom, the four managed to thrive where others may have struggled. And with Ric Wilson, YMCK and Mndsgn coming on board, the band’s collaborative effort to produce a rebellious and determined album has been able to come to fruition.
With such a strong determination to create work that disputes any possible risk of these girls being seen in a reductive manner, WINK is used to address important issues. ‘ACTION’, a response to this “year of action” addresses the mass movement the four saw towards a more equal world, with causes like BLM taking precedent throughout 2020 and hopefully beyond.
Personal favourite, ‘END’, addresses what we’ve all being looking towards, an end. But to what? Whilst we’ve been battling with the fear of what is next, CHAI channelled their observations into an incredible production of anger and movement, exploring the idea that an end is not necessarily a negative thing. With their placement of the track, in the first half of the album, furthering this perception that an end isn’t always the end.
Words: Megan Walder
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