“Reward” is Cate Le Bon’s new album on Brooklyn label, Mexican Summer, and is strikingly original, possibly the most thoughtfully-composed pop albums of the year.
Japanese four-piece CHAI is living, breathing, and dancing proof that rebellion and revolution can be a joyful occasion. Synchronized dance moves? Check. Kumbaya-campfire sing-along choruses? Double check. 120 bpm jams about body hair and redefining what it means to be a homemaker? Triple check. Needless to say, CHAI is not your typical punk band.
Comprised of twins Mana (keys, lead vocals) and Kana (guitar), and friends Yuna (bass) and Yuuki (drums), CHAI was formed as a protest against the rigid gender expectations of Japan’s “kawaii” culture. Self-dubbing their music—and raison d’etre—as “Neo-kawaii” the band has embarked on a “Born This Way”-caliber mission of spreading self-acceptance and love to the world.
Just as it’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, it’s easier to spread the gospel of “Neo-kawaii” with a barrage of dopamine-inducing pop hooks and Bob Ross levels of positivity than with venom and rage. Needless to say, most recent LP PUNK is pretty much a 33-minute pep-talk on how you’re perfect just the way you are — disguised as a mix of disco, R&B, and J-pop jams.
Equal parts catchy and subversive, CHAI’s music also has a mischievous side. For every top-40 inspired cut like “Fashionista” there’s a industrial, chant-filled song like “THIS IS CHAI” that could serve as the theme music for a Boston Dynamics-led robot revolution. For better or weird, CHAI isn’t afraid to be themselves, and what’s more punk than that?
I’m me: Pool noodle-inspired guitar licks feel like driving to the ocean of self acceptance with your convertible top down. “Everybody’s wonderful/All right!”
Family Member: The musical equivalent of your high school yearbook (senior year). Equal parts nostalgic, heartfelt, cheesy, and belt-a-long-able. “Hugging before we exchange words/Expressing with body temperature/That is FAMILY MEMBER”