Palm trees. Hazy nightclubs lit with neon. 1970s glamor, complete with the foggy soul train filter. These are just a few of the images, feelings, aesthetics that Kali Uchis evokes on her latest album, Isolation. Kali Uchis is no stranger to immersing us in her dream world - she’s known for creating one striking visual after another and since 2015, fans have been waiting to see how that dreamworld plays out on a full length. With Isolation, Uchis gives us funk with a latin tint brightened with her ethereal vocals and an infectious album of the summer.
Kali Uchis was born in Colombia and spent much of her youth traveling back and forth from Colombia to the states for schooling. Uchis graduated high school having learned audio production and video editing and released her debut mixtape, Drunken Babble, her senior year. The mixtape was noted for being genre-defying, as it showcased Uchis’ now familiar synthesis of jazzy glamor, hip-hop/R&B energy all anchored with her Latin roots. In 2015, she released her first studio album, Por Vida, for free on her website. That same year she was featured on “Find Your Wings” from Tyler, the Creator’s Cherry Bomb and was later featured on the single “See You Again” from 2017’s Flower Boy.
Just as everything that Kali Uchis puts out, Isolation is an immersion into Uchis’ dreamy aesthetic. The album starts out as if waking up in a tropical fantasy with the sultry intro, “Body Language.” The following track, “Miami,” showcases Uchis’ dynamism with it’s smooth 70’s inspired riffs punctuated by ticking high hats and trappy snare rolls. Uchis half croons half raps, “Live fast and never die/ I’m moving at the speed of light/ I’ll take your money, raise the price/ Blow up the spot like dynamite” solidifying her effortless ‘cool girl’ persona. Uchis has always been about capturing that smooth, jazzy 70’s daydream in her music, and nowhere is that more apparent than “After the Storm” featuring Tyler, the Creator and hometown hero, Bootsy Collins. The track opens with a funky bassline and echoes of wisdom from Bootsy before being lifted by Uchis’ breathy vocals.
Isolation is, from beginning to end, a success. It explores the much of the same same feelings and concepts as 2015’s Por Vida but with elevated production and a solidified vision. Uchis is a huge advocate for having creative control of her content, from creating stunning visuals to music that moves you. It’s clear on this album, she has sacrificed none of her individuality. From the decidedly disco “Dead to Me” to the fully Spanish, reggaeton wonder that is “Nuestro Planeta,” Uchis lets us explore the many facets of her creative mind (and seriously, if you were confused by Drake’s haphazard stab at reggaeton on Views, give this one a shot).
Kali Uchis’ hazy, 70’s dream will have you yearning for more. For years, it’s seemed that Kali Uchis has been standing on the precipice of obscurity, ready to be the next ‘it’ girl. Uchis has the vocals and the vision to be a Lana or a Marina, and with Isolation, she’s given us the content to see her as a real contender.
For fans of: Lana Del Rey, Sade, feeling like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface but in the coolest way
Our take: jazzy, funky riffs, dreamy vocals, songs for the summer