Illustration by Nisala Saheed

An Unexpected Gem

Kali Uchis — Isolation Album Review

Apr 21, 2018

This album initially slipped under my radar. Before its release I knew very little of Kali Uchis and had only heard her perform a few feature vocals for Tyler, the Creator, in See You Again. Thus, when I accidentally stumbled across her new album Isolation, it was love at first sight, or first listen.
Kali Uchis’ new full length release is a lovely and impressive debut for a singer who has been floating on the periphery of the mainstream music scene for way too long. This project exemplifies her vocal range, talent for producing smooth, flowing, soulful tunes, as well as an ability to blend her diverse background with her music.
After moving to the US from Colombia, Kali Uchis has been taking every opportunity to showcase her talent and has amassed a diverse discography by providing vocals to artists such as Snoop Dogg, Gorillaz and Tyler, the Creator.
She is now finally taking center stage and the result is a wholesome album that both highlights her potential and introduces Kali Uchis as a force to be reckoned with.
Listening to the album cover to cover, it is almost impossible not to notice the range that Kali Uchis covers in this project. There are tracks that draw from 1960’s soul — those that are sung in her native Spanish and even a few simple pop tunes make the cut. I have to give credit to this variety of the amazing supporting cast she has assembled for the project. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Brockhampton’s Ramiil, Gorillaz and Tyler, the Creator all pitch in to create this multidimensional project.
The album starts off with the sensual and mysterious Body Language – Intro track, which sets the free flowing tone that resonates throughout the project. It is followed by the extremely personal track Miami, where she draws directly from her immigrant past and the struggles she has faced. This theme of overcoming obstacles and finding light at the end of the tunnel keeps popping up in various songs and it seems to be a constant throughout her work.
On the other hand, the song Just A Stranger is probably the catchiest track on the album, with bouncy production and a heavy drum beat. It really came as a little surprise to find out that the production credit for this song is given to Brockhampton’s Ramiil. After so long in the shadows, this seems to be Kali Uchis’ way of reminding all of her doubters that in the end they are just “strangers looking from the bleachers, because they can’t take the danger.”
The absolute highlights of this album came in the form of the songs In My Dreams and Dead to Me, both of which sound like amazing 1980’s pop hits. They showcase a type of happiness and freedom, while acknowledging that reality always has a darker side.
Before the release of this album, Kali Uchis promoted the project with the singles After the Storm and Tyrant which are, in my opinion, the weakest tracks of the lot. After the Storm does feature a great verse from Tyler, the Creator, but that is really the only high in an otherwise dull track. On the other hand, the song Tyrant sounds like any other R&B tune out there with the lyrics following a primitive alternating rhyme scheme that belongs in a 5th grade classroom.
This leads me to the only real problem I have with this album. Even though all the various themes Kali Uchis addresses have plenty of depth, the songwriting itself does not give the subject matter its fair due. Too many of the tracks are lyrically stale and while she manages to pull herself out of this hole with her great melodic tunes and energetic instrumentals, it is certainly an area where I would like to see her improve.
In the end, it is a lovely listen. One of those that is best enjoyed on a beach where the worries of the world cannot reach you.
Favorite Tracks: In My Dreams, Miami, Just A Stranger, Dead to Me
Worst Tracks: Tyrant
Steffen Holter is a music columnist. Email him at
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