When Kali Uchis begins to sing on Tyler The Creator’s "Perfect," I see fields of sunflowers swaying in Southern California. I see the first rays of sunrise bleeding through the blinds, I see the color yellow exploding like kamikaze bumblebees. The best music leaves you with a photographic scenery, a slideshow of images, feelings that can only be described with elegance and poetry. I’ve been lost in the black hole that is Earl’s album, drifting through the colorless abyss of coming-of-age introspection. Tyler’s album is the opposite. Cherry Bomb is full of bright hues and shades, the kind of tones you see in Van Gogh’s paintings or Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time. Pastel chords and lush melodies, almost the entire album shines like a freshly washed baby blue BMW. Every artist Tyler selected to be featured brings a color to the palette, Charlie Wilson’s emerald green, Lil Wayne’s blood red and Kali Uchis is the serene yellow. Her voice is soft and angelic, the yang to Tyler’s deep and demonic yin. Opposites attract said some old wise man.
The first time I heard Kali was a month ago, while helping Nathan with the Pepsi Spring Break playlist. Her song “Know What I Want” was selected for its warmth and springtime ambiance. It stood out to me, a unique singer that mixed soul with a touch of reggae. She sings about the clarity you reach once accepting the end of a relationship, not dwelling on the heartbreak, but closing a door to allow another to open. Her voice is sensual, dreamy, and her accent adds an exotic/tropical touch to her vocals. The impression it left was a lasting one. Every singer that has entered my ears lately has some kind of effect on their voice. Drowning their sound in reverb and Auto-tune, especially with rappers, everyone is shifting toward more melodic music, it’s enjoyable, but there’s a lack of naturalness that even the best engineer isn’t able to replicate. Her song felt untouched, distinctive, and catchy.
It wasn’t until endless plays of “Perfect” that I was inspired to dig into Kali’s EP, Por Vida . A phrase that means for life, for a long time, for the rest of one’s life. I believe the title signifies her pledge to art, a pact with music, a declaration to never stop. Much like Tyler’s album (who produced "Speed" and "Call Me"), her EP is full of florescent colors that you would see in a Malibu Barbie’s dreamland. It’s the kind of music to be played in pink convertibles during sunsets when the sky is an ocean of coloration. From "Sycamore Trees" to "Loner," the Colombian songstress delivers modern pop music with a nostalgic twist. The song "Lottery," for example, samples 1977 band Delegation, the end result sounds like something she unearthed during a scavenger hunt through her parents ancient vinyl. She’s an avid thriftier, it’s no different than her approach to music. Taking something old and giving it purpose in the present.
I’m a fan of her visual presentation as well. If you flip through her Tumblr or Instagram, she might as well be wearing the shades of her music. She is to the eyes what her voice is to the ears. The video for “Know What I Want” is a perfect representation of this. From the cinematic charm to the storyline, Kali is fun and girly but comes with an edge. She embodies that image, in her life and music. She does almost everything, from writing songs, writing treatments, and directing the videos. In a lot of ways, she’s the woman version of Tyler. Kali is less loud, easier on the eyes, but both are creative, care immensely about the visual display, and take a D.I.Y approach with their art.
Snoop Dogg stamped her on the That’s My Work 3 mixtape, Tyler is introducing her to his insanely large audience, Rick Rubin is a fan, it’s only a matter of time before Kali has a huge breakout. Modern music needs more color, feeling and soul. That’s what I’m seeking when rummaging through emails, a song that sends me soaring to the sun. That's why I've been playing Towkio's "Heaven Only Knows" and Chance The Rapper's "Sunday Candy" daily. I’m craving feel good music right now, sounds that vibrate joyously. Not party music, not turn up tunes, but music with some color. I’m still playing Pharrell’s G I R L because it’s an audio rainbow, Kendrick’s TPAB is a mural that would make JJ Evans proud, Tyler’s Cherry Bomb is fireworks on July 4th and now I have Kali Uchis bringing tones of pinks and yellows to keep me from being completely eclipsed by the darkness of trap snares and 808s.
Lets be honest, we are living in some dark times. Every day I come across news stories that are gut-wrenching, it makes me question humanity, and where the world is headed. I’m looking for musical warmth, to help deal with this heartless world. I still play Earl for the days that are stormy and grey, but now I have Kali for the bright and vibrant. I’m just searching for the balance, that full range of color.
[By Yoh, aka Human Adventure Time, aka @Yoh31]