Kali Uchis' debut album 'Isolation' is a funky, blissful pop record.
Isolation is a vibe, a contemplative pop record that draws from a diverse range of genres, all of which exercise Uchis' impressive range as a writer and singer.
Kali Uchis has a voice that melts in the ear. Her songs are melancholic and lush, a type of romantic isolation she draws the listener into. Her debut album, aptly titled Isolation, feels like stepping into her world, a melting pot of genres that seamlessly blend the Columbian-American singer's sultry alto with bedroom pop and funk. The comparisons to Amy Winehouse still stand, of course, but only Kali Uchis knows how to find the sweet spots in songs that are indulgently sad, wistful, and hopelessly longing. This is sugary pop music, but Kali Uchis is no one's victim. She is vulnerable by choice.
Isolation finds Uchis playing with genres her voice naturally acclimates to: On "Your Teeth In My Neck" Uchis sings about cultural appropriation and "vampires" in the industry, her voice bouncing off Neptunes-esque production. On singles "Tyrant," "Nuestro Planeta," and "After the Storm," Uchis hits her stride, her silky voice morphing into Billie Holiday backed by West Coast soul and funk. Kali Uchis is still influenced by the same sounds Odd Future artists Tyler the Creator and Steve Lacy gravitate toward, but this time things are more refined and idiosyncratic. The lo-fi aesthetic of breakout EP Por Vida is present but less girl-in-bedroom and more performative. A self-proclaimed recluse, Uchis knows how to inhabit her songs like they are actual spaces, exercising a type of vocal restraint on slower, moodier pieces like "Miami" and tracks like "Feel Like a Fool," where Uchis is more lively.
The interludes provide a type of blissful respite from the reggaetón influences, where Uchis sinks into sultry R&B. "I know," she sings on "Coming Home," "stop holding me back, quit pushing me forward…I move at my own pace, just leave me alone." The interlude "Gotta Get Up" is a beautiful prelude to "Tomorrow" (produced by Kevin Parker), a psych-pop record where Uchis recites a stunning outro in Spanish. Comparing herself to a comet in the sky, Uchis is fascinated with her internal energy and is careful where she chooses to exhaust it, always discerning what's worth burning out for. Uchis is still self-contained and her music, as a result, casts a hypnotic spell on the listener—the same claustrophobic fuzziness heard on Por Vida.
And Isolation is hopelessly romantic, but the spaces Uchis navigates on this record are within reach, more palpable and less diaristic. Her writing has improved and she's become more of storyteller and seducer. Isolation feels powerful, an I-am-woman manifesto pumped with glitter, sugar, and honey—basking in the slowness of life. Kali Uchis is in no rush to prove anything instead, she's happy to rest in the moment and set the mood. Isolation is a vibe, a contemplative pop record that draws from a diverse range of genres, all of which exercise Uchis' impressive range as a writer and singer. She is well on her way to becoming a pop icon—if she's not already. Even Uchis knows when to wake up from her dreams and Isolation is her kaleidoscopic headspace fully-realized.
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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