Taiwan-based indie-rock/indie-pop trio, The Chairs released their fourth album “Shangri-La is Calling”. Containing 10 tracks with four of them sung in English, this album shows a mature and ripe side of The Chairs.
“Shangri-La is Calling” might be not as sweet and mild as “Real Love Is …” which was released two years ago. This latest album actually seems darker, more varied, and more spontaneous. In “Shangri-La”, Yong Jing (Lead Vocals, Guitarist), Zhong Ying (Lead Vocals, Guitarist), and Ban Sen/Bo Yuan (Bassist) seem free to incorporate many elements of the music they like. Whether it’s 90s Alternative Rock from the UK and US or pulling further into the roots like 60s flower pop.
The reference is quite obvious to “Aphrodite”. The song, which is the sixth track on the album, is very thick with a touch of 60s pop. Especially when Yong Jing takes vocal notes for each verse and chorus.
“Aphrodite”, which was introduced as a single in early June 2022, has quite a strong The Beatles taste. The track is also made even more beautiful with 20-second vocal harmonies that remind me of the 60s New York sunshine pop group, The Free Design. Even so, The Chairs does not want to be trapped in a retro image. In this 3-minute 53-second song, The Chairs closes almost the last half of the song with a more contemporary pop progression.
60s Flower Pop also feels on “獵戶座的腰帶” (The Orion’s Belt). Although sung in Chinese Mandarin, the arrangement cannot be separated from the strong influence of The Beatles or The Byrds. Moreover, in this song, The Chairs seems to be exploring with a 12-string guitar and a vocoder. Reinforcing the 60’s vibe they were about to present.In the last minute, “獵戶座的腰帶” has a psychedelic vibe built on the funky bass pattern, spacey organ, and falsetto backing vocals that are sung over and over again.
A different reference is taken to the two opening songs “Lonestar” and “另一個答案” (Another Answer). Both are closer to the pop/rock influences of the 90s or the early 2000s dream pop revival.
In “Lonestar”, Yong Jing’s vocal twist is more audible taking the influence of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. However, it doesn’t take away his own vocal characteristics. The song, whose music video has been released on the YouTube channel, is built with a dreamy feel that is relaxing but also introspective.
For me, “Shangri-La is Calling” could be considered The Chair’s new form of exploration. Stepping further out of their comfort zone on the previous three albums. It also shows the trio’s flexibility in opening up new possibilities in music. A fitting achievement from a trio who have been together for more than 10 years.