Settling should be a deal breaker for debut albums. For Kali Uchis and Isolation, her go-getter mentality manifests itself in the realization on her second track, “Miami”: “Why would I be Kim? I can be Kanye”. Released on April 6, Uchis’ debut album cements her musical existence as the focal point, even when her focus gets interrupted by breezy dreams and pesky emotions.
For her debut album Isolation, Uchis, at least from the collaborative standpoint, shrugs off any pretense that she’s a loner. From start to finish, Uchis makes the most of her Interscope resources and personal contacts. Since dropping her 2015 EP Por Vida, Uchis has galivanted with all manner of solo acts. She’s firmly established herself as Tyler, the Creator’s go to contemporary songbird and has made inroads with Lana Del Rey, serving as the opener for part of her 2018 tour. With Isolation, however, Uchis trades in harmonizing solely over jazzy and spacey production from the likes of Kaytranada, Badbadnotgood to embracing a mix of uptempo dance jams and swingy doo wop grooves.
This time around, Uchis’ collaborations eclipsed their former grandeur. On the intro track, “Body Language”, production renaissance Man Om’mas Keith and LA jazz cat Thundercat set Uchis up with a light and tropical rhythm that rivals sparkling water in its effervescence. Isolation’s credits blossom from there – Uchis enlists Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur fame, Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, funk specialist Bootsy Collins and plenty more to build her dreamy soundscape
Despite the stylistic buffet from which she samples, Uchis’ album is curated with the utmost deliberateness. As a full-length, major label release, Uchis yields just enough spring-summer Spotify-playlist ready cuts without watering down her presentation. “Dead To Me”, despite its nomenclature, combines the sugary pop and R&B flair and chewy hook requisite of a chart-topping track. Not one to shy away from her Colombian roots, “Nuestro Planeta” takes a similar approach to mass appeal but submerges it in lively reggaetón dressing with a side of Reykon.
Citing influences from Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Isolation occasionally takes hits from the mid-2000 trappings of Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. “Flight 22” never loses altitude while “Tyrant”, with vocals from Jorja Smith becomes a flittering sonic diarchy ruled by a pair of fantasizing songstresses. For better or worse, Smith’s feature, which plays eerily similar to something conjured by Rihanna, further lights up Uchis’ Isolation.
Where Uchis’ last outing was emblematic of a 20-something spinning her wheels hanging upside down from her bed in a pastel painted room, Isolation is said 20-something’s steady maturation. Leaving behind her fondness for lazy melodies, on Isolation Uchis makes the leap towards multinational fervor and sonic diversity.