Kali Uchis

Isolation

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Singer and songwriter Kali Uchis appeared in 2012 as a self-sustaining teenage artist and heightened anticipation for her first album with each successive release and shrewd collaboration. Tyler, The Creator, Gorillaz, Bootsy Collins, and Miguel got the word and sought her out. So did Juanes and Daniel Caesar, whose respective connections with Uchis, "El Ratico" and "Get You," netted Grammy nominations. As Uchis kept operating, she resembled more and more the wholly empowered musical progeny of Kid Creole & the Coconuts, stylistically dynamic across the spectrums of R&B and Latin pop, skillfully mixing flamboyance and sincerity, generous all the while with lingering hooks. Likewise, she displayed a knack for realistic relationship narratives told with wit and finesse. All of these attributes color Isolation, her first LP and debut for major label Virgin EMI. More defined and energized than her previous mixtape and EP, the album enables her to fully exhibit her way with words and melodies, whether she's engaging in tropical gangsterism, avowing self-reliance, aching for a romantic getaway, cutting off a hanger-on, or bemoaning domestic minor sex trafficking. Reciprocal guest appearances are made throughout. Tyler and Bootsy add sympathetic humor to the drifting BadBadNotGood groove "After the Storm," while Gorillaz' Damon Albarn lays out some festive Suicide synth pop for "In My Dreams." Elsewhere, numerous West Coast associates -- Sounwave, Larrance Dopson, DJ Dahi, Om'Mas Keith, and Thundercat among them -- add to the set's prevailing dazed, dreamlike feel. Uchis is never obscured by the productions, coolly expressive while casually threading clever imagery from song to song. Her writing is most vivid in one of the delightfully bent retro-soul numbers, "Feel Like a Fool": "My heart went through a shredder the day I learned about your baby mothers/'Cause you're a grown-ass man, now you should know better/But I still run all my errands in your sweater." For all its entertaining art-pop feats, Isolation is just as remarkable for serious moments like "Killer," in which Uchis reaches a high degree of anguish that only real-life experience can arouse.

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