Kali Uchis – ‘Isolation’ Review

The singer's vibrant debut album showcases an icon in the making

Here, in no particular order, is a selection of artists that are on Kali Uchis’ stacked debut album, ‘Isolation’. Damon Albarn of Blur fame, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Odd Future rapper Tyler, The Creator, rising British R&B star Jorja Smith, and LA’s funk king Thundercat. But in amidst all of those stars, you’ll come away remembering just one name: Kali Uchis.

For the uninitiated: Uchis was born in Virginia to Colombian parents, splitting her time between both nations. Her musical journey began in 2012 with the buzzy mixtape, ‘Drunken Babble’ and was followed by 2015’s collection ‘Por Vida’. Appearances on Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album ‘Flower Boy’, Daniel Caesar’s Grammy-nominated single ‘Get You’, and Gorillaz B-sides ‘She’s My Collar’ and ‘Ticker Tape’ further bolstered the 23-year-old’s profile – leading us to this point, her delayed, but brilliant debut album.

‘Isolation’ is nothing like the name suggests. The 15 tracks flit between pop-tinged R&B to bossa nova, and there are guest stars aplenty to pull in the casual listener. That said, no guest can outshine Uchis. Her self-assuredness and her larger-than-life personality is an unmissable prospect on each track, as on the bouncing ‘Dead To Me’, where she hits back at haters: “Don’t come for me unless I sent for you – you’re dead to me“. Uchis is not someone you’d want to make an enemy of.

But she’s not one to dwell on these slights – a whole new world is ready to be seized. On the dreamy opener, ‘Body Language’, we see she’s eyeing up bigger things: “I’m packing all my bags and leaving it behind / there’s no tracking where I’m going”. The groovy ‘Miami’, meanwhile, showcases her rapid ascent to being the name on everyone’s lips: “Live and fast and never die, I’m moving at the speed of light”.

Each song on ‘Isolation’ sounds wildly different from the last, but Uchis proves to be the constant, pulling and manipulating the strings in all the right places. Disco bangers in the shape of Tame Impala collaboration ‘Tomorrow’ brush shoulders with ballads like ‘Flight 22’, via the Amy Winehouse-recalling pop triumph ‘Feel Like A Fool’. Miraculously, it feels in no way forced: it’s a joy to witness her glide into any genre and totally own it.