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The Japanese quartet Chai aren't easy to pin down musically and that's their plan. They mix and match a variety of sounds and styles on their debut album Pink in thrilling fashion that's both very '90s and totally up to date. It sounds like it could have been released by Grand Royal or Emperor Norton in the '90s -- the band display the same disregard for the boundaries of the genre as many bands on those labels gleefully did. It also reflects the contemporary anything-goes attitude of a band making records in an age where almost any form of music is only a click away. On just the first three songs the record veers from the hip hop-inspired, Shamir-jacking funk opener "Hi Hi Baby" to the pulsing, post-punk rocker "N.E.O.," which shows off guitarist Kana's skills and has an insistent hook, to the romping, super fun "Boys Seco Men." It's one surprise after another on every song after that, each with a huge hook and a breathtaking display of the kind of high wire derring-do that most bands don't even attempt. They follow the mind-bending wackiness of the first three songs with a pretty laid-back ballad "Horechatta," a lovely track that sounds like otherworldly soft rock beamed in from a satellite. Then it's on to the pumped-up alien disco of "Fried," ridiculous chopped-up funk that Beck would think was too weird on "Gyaranboo," Strokes-y rock on "Walking Star," and the bubbling sunshine pop of "Sayonara Complex." Throughout the record, they chuck in proto-metal guitar solos, yelped vocal interjections, rock school basslines, chirpy vocal harmonies, and odd samples; basically anything they felt like doing, and it's totally refreshing. They don't seem to care about replicating or incorporating sounds that might make them more popular; it's more about having fun and making the music they want to make. Luckily for fans of goofy, happy, and endlessly entertaining pop, the music they want to make is all of those things and Pink is the work of a band in love with music, doing it for kicks alone and not worried at all about being cool or cute. It's refreshing and fun and some of the best pop music anyone is likely to hear in the late 2010s.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:20
2 2:49
3 4:21
4 3:33
5 2:57
Chai / Kana / Mana
7 2:59
8 1:40
9 2:59
Chai / Kana / Mana
11 3:22
blue highlight denotes track pick