‘I invest in myself, and I love to reinvent myself.’
(Kali Uchis, Nylon Magazine, April 2018)
POP music isn’t usually associated with nihilism, and such a despondent outlook doesn’t usually happen on major label pop albums.
It’s a good thing then that Kali Uchis’ Isolation is the inverse of most major label pop albums – engaging in an original way, political in an unsentimental way and overtly feminist in a pronounced way.
There’s a fierceness and confidence to Isolation that belies the album’s status as her debut, and a comfort in cross-pollinating as many genres as she can successfully. It’s often hard to pin down exactly what Kali is influenced by, and she comes across as a genre polymath on Isolation, unafraid to meld latin rhythms with indie-rock production and her own dreamy, escapist lyricism.
While Isolation is clearly Kali’s show first and foremost, it would be remiss not to mention the stunning guest list. The Internet’s
It’s a testament to Kali’s star power that she remains the most singularly compelling voice on the record, with Isolation tossing up an interesting thought experiment: which of the albums many differing guests, producers and genres fit her the best?
For me it’s
There’s a similar outlook on late-album highlight ‘After The Storm’, which features the album’s smoothest instrumental. However here it coalesces into a sentiment of self-affirmation and positivity (“The sun’ll come out/Nothing good ever comes easy”).
How many other songs have Canadian nu-jazz crew
"Kali presents herself as a uniquely modernistic pop star, unafraid to combine her affinity for ’60s girl-groups and bossanova with forward-thinking production and an inviting wooziness."
The Amy Winehouse comparisons often come thick and fast, but she reminds me more of a post-millennial Lana Del Rey. Both successfully marry a heavily stylised aesthetic that feels both authentic and a slight put-on with a knowing self-awareness that seeps from their public persona into their music.
On Isolation, Kali presents herself as a uniquely modernistic pop star, unafraid to combine her affinity for ’60s girl-groups and bossanova with forward-thinking production and an inviting wooziness.
“[It’s] a welcome update that positions her as a vital non-white perspective on womanhood in 2018.”
Her sexual agency is also explored in detail, with nameless men the objects of both desire and scorn – often on the same song. The furious
If there is a through-line on Isolation, it’s the fearlessness of Kali’s voice: ‘“You never knew me then/And you’ll never know me now,” she intones on
And so Isolation stands as a triumph, a validating exercise in a debut album remaining cohesive while still flipping through disparate genres and sounds.
Here Kali’s dreams are experienced in wide-screen grandeur, painting a portrait of remaining calm in the face of adversity and managing to stay unaffected in the process.