Kali Uchis – Isolation
Kali Uchis’s debut album, “Isolation,” is one of the most refreshing releases of this year. Completely assured in her sound, Uchis demands recognition as an exceptional vocalist. She seamlessly glides between genres, from jazz and reggae to pop, and all the elements come together to create a unique soundscape, belonging to her alone.
The album is a wild ride – as you progress into Uchis’s world, you realize that each song is a complete mini-universe in itself. It feels like walking through doors, each one opening to a different location, with different-colored walls and new people, where everyone seems to have their own unique groove. This is the result of Uchis’s own vision of bringing in collaborators from a wide range of backgrounds and sonic legacies. Among the music industry giants who worked on the album are Damon Albarn of Blur, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Odd Future rapper Tyler, The Creator, British R&B newcomer Jorja Smith and LA’s funk king and production mastermind Thundercat. Some of these artists are featured on the songs, some have contributed productions, and while their own inimitable marks can be traced throughout the songs, the album is undeniably a Kali Uchis world. She carefully manipulates these collaborations and dominates each one with her exceptional vocal performance. From the meticulously put-together synths of “Dead to Me” to the R&B-influenced groove lines of “After the Storm,” the album is a complete, kaleidoscopic look into the life of the artist.
The album is also exceptional for its stylistic and production choices, some of which can be regarded as evident risks in the face of the realities of the contemporary music industry. She is brutally honest about her upbringing and her struggles with her father – but they are never reflected in a bad light. The album feels light as feather, even though it deals with very urgent questions about the immigrant experience, bilingualism and being a woman in a notoriously sexist industry. “Nuestro Planeta,” a Spanish song, cuts the album in half, and Uchis never shies away from switching between her two mother tongues; she does it again and again in “Tyrant” and “Tomorrow.” Bilingualism in itself feels mysterious, like a spell you are under, perplexed by something that you cannot understand but feel to your fingertips.
Each song breaks down the everyday heartbreaks and setbacks, joys and triumphs of life that are a universal experience. As Uchis moves with ease between different time zones and dance floors – from 1970s soul to 1990s hip-hop and finally 2010s RB – she is building a universe all her own, zooming in and out by means of her musical ingenuity. She promises everything and anything in her power to make this experience a stunning one as you listen to it.
Looking you in the eye and telling you to be honest, walking down the street in high-heeled boots at an unflinching pace, throwing an unfaithful ex’s favorite items of clothing out onto the street from her window, Kali Uchis is first and foremost a woman, as well as a creative force to be reckoned with from 2018 onward.