Kali Uchis ‘isola†ion’

Kali Uchis
Barring an unforeseen release, 'isola†ion' is the pop album of the year
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Approximately midway through ‘isola†ion’, Kali Uchis subtly — if not unintentionally  nods to Raven Lenae‘s delectable hook from ‘Sticky’ on the cosmically funky ‘Dead to Me’. Whether Uchis arrived at the falsetto cooing independently or took a cue from Lenae matters little; moments like this pervade ‘Isolation’, elevating a satisfying listen to a potently addictive one. Nearly a month after its release, ‘isola†ion’ offers a kaleidoscopic experience.

One could listen to this LP for a month and still uncover additional, rewarding details. The xylophone on ‘Your Teeth In My Neck’ evokes The Psychedelic Furs‘ ‘Love My Way’ whereas ‘In My Dreams’ recalls  ‘Plastic Beach’-era Gorillaz, though not overtly. It’s not until Damon Albarn surprisingly delivers the electro-pop track’s bridge that one realizes what perhaps should have been obvious similarities. Therein lies Uchis‘s modest brilliance. It would have been too easy, and far less satisfying, to present ‘In My Dreams’ as a nostalgic throwback to 2010 (or last year’s bloated ‘Humanz’); instead, Uchis leaves no doubt that she is no mere feature. ‘isola†ion’, with its myriad sonic convolutions, is not a simple pastiche  it is sheer, unadulterated Uchis.

Pivoting from Amy Winehouse-esque deliveries on ‘Flight 22’ and ‘Feel Like A Fool’ to spaced-out, 1970’s Japanese funk arrangements on ‘Tomorrow’, having already flirted with trap beats ‘Miami’ and inevitable club-favorite ‘Nuestro Planeta’, Uchis incorporates worldly textures (dig the bossa nova on ‘Body Language’) that ought to give any listener pause. Barring an unforeseen release, ‘isola†ion’ is the pop album of the year.

Of course, ‘isola†ion’ is not without its minor flaw(s). Uchis‘s “He said he’d want me in his video like Bound 1 (Like Bound 1) / But why would I be Kim? I could be Kanye” line on ‘Miami’ requires contextual knowledge so as to be less about West than about Uchis making a feminist stand, but it still feels a little wiggly given recent events. Beyond that, one is left wanting something more from ‘isola†ion’. It is undoubtedly a great collection of above-average songs, but for all its musical diversity, a recurring interlude (such as those found on ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ and ‘A Seat at the Table‘) would make this album an instant classic. (Still, ‘Gotta Get Up’ and ‘Coming Home’ aren’t throwaways.)

Irritatingly good. ‘isola†ion’ is enjoyable for stuffy audiophiles and casual listeners alike. One might (impatiently) wait for this LP to receive an extensive vinyl treatment by grabbing a quality set of headphones and bliss out. Kali Uchis‘s stunning debut wants for little in the way of excellence, and we ought to invest our time in a nascent star. 

Kali Uchis Isolation
Fig. 1: A candid image of the reviewer listening to Kali Uchis’s ‘isola†ion.

The full track-listing is as follows:

  1. Body Language
  2. Miami (feat. BIA)
  3. Just a Stranger (feat. Steve Lacy)
  4. Flight 22
  5. Your Teeth In My Neck
  6. Tyrant (feat. Jorja Smith)
  7. Dead To Me
  8. Nuestro Planeta (feat. Reykon)
  9. In My Dreams
  10. Gotta Get Up
  11. Tomorrow
  12. Coming Home
  13. After the Storm (feat. Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins)
  14. Feel Like a Fool
  15. Killer

‘Isolation’ is out now via Interscope.