Album of the Year
Kali Uchis – Isolation
Released: 6 April 2018
Kali Uchis delivers a dreamy dive into deep introspection on “Isolation“, the 3rd project from the Colombian-American songstress, following her FEB 2015 release “Por Vida”.
The AOTY Story
I first heard Kali Uchis after the release of her first project, Drunken Babble (2012). Drunken Babble was a mixtape-style 17-track serenade equipped with interludes and song interpolations such as The Delegations “Oh Honey“ cover titled “Never Be Yours” (which Kali would remake again in the form of “Lottery“, on her 2015 release, Por Vida).
Kali followed-up Drunken Babble with the “Por Vida Youtube teaser” which featured several amazing, unreleased song snippets, songs seemingly intended for her Por Vida album. The first song featured an old-school soul sample, but was vocally styled like a prayer- serenade, led by a pitched-up harp. It was great. Another song from the “Por Vida Youtube teaser” was an upbeat yet smooth, spacey sounding concoction – the synths hypnotic, yet engaging, hitting the ears kind’ve like an audio transmitter; Kali Uchis, in her signature dreamy sound, sunk into the beat with an overlaying echo effect. Again, AMAZING. But none of these songs would appear on the February 2015 Por Vida release.
In fact, the “Por Vida Youtube teaser” was completely pulled from Youtube a few months after appearing, and none of the full song snippets were released. Fans would wait 2+ years after the release of Drunken Babble mixtape and “Por Vida Youtube teaser”, for Kali Uchis’ studio debut Por Vida.
“After Por Vida, fans would endure another long wait for Kali Uchis’ next release – but this time during Kali’s seeming benching, the R&B scene was flooded with new women solo acts including: H.E.R, Ravyn Lenae, Jorja Smith, Ella Mai, Amber Marks and more…”
Por Vida released in February 2015 to warm reviews, but also confusion and slight disappointment from fans, surprised at Por Vida‘s short 9 song 31 minute length, considering the more than 2 year wait for it’s release following Drunken Babble. Additionally, none of the beloved song snippets from the “Por Vida Youtube teaser” appeared on Por Vida‘s 9 song tracklist. After Por Vida, fans would endure another long wait for Kali Uchis’ next release – but this time during Kali’s seeming benching, the R&B scene was flooded with new women solo acts including: H.E.R, Ravyn Lenae, Jorja Smith, Ella Mai, Amber Marks and many more on the women side; and SiR, Daniel Caesar, Sampha, Masego and more on the men’s side.
Frustrated, Kali Uchis fans and supporters watched the new R&B scene emerge with young, new talent right before their eyes, as Kali Uchis sat for nearly 3 full years in between the release of Por Vida (FEB 2015) and Isolation (APR 2018). These 3 years (2015-2018) were pivotal, as Soundcloud emerged and streaming captured the music consumption market share.
Kali Uchis “Isolation” Album Review
Coming into 2018, I was worried about the career management of Kali Uchis – clearly a talented performer, creative director, and songstress. But who had only released 2 projects in a near 6 year period – 1 of which was her debut Drunken Babble mixtape, and the other a 9-song introductory EP, Por Vida (along with some high-profile features including on Tyler, The Creator and The Gorillaz albums).
I was worried that Isolation might be another EP serving like Por Vida. I was worried that the Kali’s label might compromise her sound to fit in with the current Pop-R&B sugar-high. However, on my first through Isolation, my worries were quelled. This is the album I was hoping for! This is the sound, the writing, the feel that I feared Kali Uchis wouldn’t be able to recapture post-2013. This is the sound direction I was hoping after Drunken Babble tape and the “Por Vida Youtube teasers”, and THEN SOME.
On my 1st listen of Isolation, I sunk instantly into the album’s utopic, Vice City atmosphere. But the more I listened, the more I grew to appreciate Isolation‘s introspective, socio-political motif, like the politically-charged songwriting on track #5 “Your Teeth In My Neck” and the deep introspection on the “Gotta Get Up – interlude“. The album’s lead single “Tyrant” is a serious Song of the Year 2019 contender and features fellow aforementioned R&B newcomer Jorja Smith – but the song is perfect even without her.
In 2018, we experienced one of the most prolific years for Rap releases, which included Kanye West’s G.O.O.D music’s summer barrage of 5 albums (DAYTONA, KTSE, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, NASIR, Ye), new albums from huge names like Drake and Travis Scott, the return of Meek Mill post-prison release, the rise of Griselda Records, the reemergence of Rap beef on wax, multiple new releases from fan favs like Curren$y and Roc Marciano, and the R&B resurgence with newer acts such as Jacquees challenging veterans like Keith Sweat to release music.
★★★★1/2: Stellar example of genre; peak potential.
But amidst ALL THIS prolific, historic year for Rap releases, Kali Uchis’ 15 song; 46 minute Isolation LP, a proper debut, and a full gather and pivot from what looked like was going to be a trip and fall from Kali Uchis as the new R&B scene became crowded during her absences, stands TALL. Album of the Year 2018.👑
Play this with the windows down.