Kali Uchis’ ‘TO FEEL ALIVE’ EP briefly taps into the components of love and the emotions that come with it

Courtesy of A Virgin EMI Records / Interscope Records

Colombian American songstress Kali Uchis is back with a sample-sized EP that clocks in at just around 10 minutes but manages to offer a glimpse for what is to come. It has been just a few years since the release of her breakout debut record “Isolation” back in 2018, where she really came into her own stylistically and vocally. Finding power in a dreamy series of tracks that went through a chameleon-like set of changes from latin pop, rhythm and blues and neo soul, highlighting Uchis’ great versatility that warrants for a new batch of songs. Kali Uchis, who tweeted that the EP was made in a couple days alone during quarantine, not only captures the essence of yearning for physical touch and companionship, she does not stray away from her dreamy ethereal singing to create this atmosphere. While the EP is only composed of four tracks, there are a plethora of elements that capture the senses before pressing play. 

 

The explicit album cover is taken out of the “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” playbook. The album cover juxtaposes the two different eras of her career.  The crude and explicit theme from the cover spills into the album as we see the growth of Uchis from the intro track “honey baby (SPOILED!)” that had already circulated earlier in her career, to her unreleased “I want war (BUT I NEED PEACE).” Thematically, each song circles around the same subject matter of love and romantic conflict but they feel like they are barely scratching the surface. Through the four tracks a story comes together with the love sick bliss of  “angel” and “honey baby (SPOILED!),” as Kali finds herself addicted to her significant other. While still enjoying the sex, the affection and all the nice things of the romance, the intro track is about the doubts she still has about the relationship. We then progress toward the end of the record where Kali delivers breathy vocal harmonies over plucked strings singing, “I love the smell of you burnin’ your last bridge with me,” where it is apparent that things in the relationship have soured greatly over this short series of songs. 

 

Given this, I can only imagine how many details, pieces and nuances of the plot that we are missing out on by rushing to the end of this record so quickly. I could only dream about how much of a powerhouse the closing track could’ve been had the instrumental been a bit more ambitious. The production for the majority of the cuts on this project may have lacked ambition but it drives me to believe that is what Uchis was aiming for. As she stated prior to the release of this EP, she did not want to roll out her official album during the quarantine so to provide fans with new music, she released half-baked unreleased tracks that hold a small cohesive bond to allow the listener to see the growth from her earlier project to her breakout debut in these tiny batch of songs. 

 

Overall I was left feeling a little underwhelmed by this EP while also pleased to see the tracks that gained popularity early in Kali’s career get a formal release. While “angel” was probably my favorite song off the tape, it definitely is not my favorite Kali Uchis song to date, as the production on this record feels relatively stripped back, leaving me feeling like I am listening to lost potential. Structurally and instrumentally, nearly every song is half-baked compared to her previous work; it only scratches the surface of something much bigger. Do not get me wrong, for the most part Uchis still brings the usual soft, sweet, sensual and subtle vibe, the trademark sound and aesthetic that you expect. However, coming out of this I felt underwhelmed due to the fact that not only did I really enjoy “Isolation,” but seeing it performed live on tour allowed for me to enjoy the artistry within the music. For anyone that goes into this EP looking for a completely new Kali Uchis sound, you will be sorely disappointed. As for the Kali Uchis fan that has witnessed her growth as an artist, this may be the pick-me-up you need to hold you over until a full length album is released.

 

Verdict: The album is short and sweet but comes off as half-baked, from the production to the song structure. Each track reminds the listener not only where Uchis is now in her career but also shows just how far she has come. Overall, I find this EP to be the appetizer to the main course that Uchis plans to serve her fans; if you love her sound as well as her journey, it is definitely worth the listen. 

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