Audial manna descended from the heavens on April 6, arguably the most overwhelming (and good!) New Music Friday yet in 2018. Riding the tidal wave of buzz created the previous night by A$AP Rocky’s jaw-dropping “A$AP Forever” music video, releases arrived from a range of artists mirroring the lineups of one of this summer’s coming festivals.
Invasion of Privacy, the impressive debut studio album from Bronx superstar emcee Cardi B, legitimized her position among hip-hop’s heavyweights. Drake, seeing that words were being spoken about artists not named Drake, swooped in and put the world on pause with the release of his “Nice For What” single and surefire club-hit that even samples the same Lauryn Hill song (“Ex-Factor”) as Cardi’s single “Be Careful.”
But April 6 belonged to 24-year-old Colombian-American singer-songwriter Kali Uchis. Isolation, Uchis’ debut studio album, meanders sonically from mid-20th-century soul to modern art-pop and R&B. Fifteen songs and 46 minutes in length — and accompanied by several of Uchis’ past collaborators — Isolation is lonely, seductive and flawless, marking the genesis of a superstar.
On “Body Language,” the album’s opening track, Uchis arrives with an ethereal hum and tangible sway. Singing over the song’s noticeably Thundercat production, Uchis is past the point of introductions.
“I’m sick and tired of talking/ Told you everything you need to know,” she croons. “‘Cause the rest is in the body language/ Do you hear me? Can you feel me now?”
Isolation‘s tracklist is studded with stars, like Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, whom Uchis had previously collaborated with. Steve Lacy, who worked alongside Vince Staples on Uchis’ 2016 track “Only Girl,” duets a tale of a financially motivated relationship over his own production on the standout track “Just a Stranger.”
Albarn, who enlisted Uchis’ help on Gorillaz’ 2017 album, Humanz, pairs the singer with trance-inducing production on the pulsing “In My Dreams,” which feels like it exists inside of the Nintendo Wii universe (in the best way possible). On “After the Storm,” a verse from Tyler, the Creator, who featured Uchis on two of his own albums (Cherry Bomb and Flower Boy), demonstrates a rapper/singer chemistry akin to Kanye and Estelle on “American Boy.”
“Sun is beaming on me like headlights beaming on Bambi,” raps Tyler with his unmistakable voice. “Now let’s pretend the street is the room, and you are the Camry.”
Uchis’ music — an always-shifting blend of R&B, jazz and dream-pop — is tough to define and impossible to ignore. On “Miami,” lyricism reminiscent of M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” combines with a hazy and enchanting instrumental to create a “Hotel California” feel. Uchis often sings in Spanish, telling tales of an inescapable love on the Reykon-featuring “Nuestro Planeta.” “Flight 22,” regardless of how one chooses to categorize Uchis’ sound, is gorgeous.
“There are several exits on this aircraft in the event of an emergency,” says Uchis as she mimics in-plane announcements during the song’s opening. “At this time, please fasten your seat belts, as we are preparing for takeoff.”
Uchis, herself in full ascent, won’t be landing soon.