Album Reviews: Kali Uchis, King Gizzard, Megan Thee Stallion
Kali Uchis — Sin Miedo (Alexandria, Virginia/Colombia)
While we've only been able to get a taste of Kali Uchis' Spanish in past years, her latest release dives right into it. Part-evolution, and partly a new flavour on what we know from Kali, this record bridges a lot of pop ideas from English and Latin America, and reduces the producer collabs. The a cappella seductiveness of "La Luna Enamorada" is a suave intro to the record, mixing a darkness and deep, bass-filled swirl of vocals into a mesmerizing beginning. Alternatively "Aqui yo mando!" comes out with hip hop grit, as Uchis does a great job flipping in English here and there to bring punchy moments within the track. The psychedelic riffing on "Quiero Sentirme Bien" is a warm and nostalgic track, echoing its own desire for love in its bright and often welcoming hooks. Uchis swings out with one more fusion-driven tracks on "Telepatia" as her voice floats in the spacey mix of synths and Latin-tinged guitars.
Ruston Kelly —Shape & Destroy (Georgetown, South Carolina)
Brimming with a sense of hope and a bit of southern charm, Ruston Kelly's new record paints pictures you want to explore more and more. "In The Blue" set it off with a shimmering beauty, as the glowing tones behind the strums build this grandeur for everything to boom around. In the sombre quiet of "Alive" there's a real power to hearing the harmonies come together, especially as the song builds to celebrate moving forward again. Ruston brings out a really powerful vocal delivery on "Brave" really bearing his heart with the most emotion of the whole record. The pop swings around on "Jubilee" with a newfound excitement and a ringing xylophone to bring a childlike wonder to it.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — K.G. (Melbourne, Australia)
After briefly being prolific to a near-fault, this sonically invigorating Aussie outfit is returning to blow our minds again. With an approach here that brings out a more explosive and expansive sound, they're able to pull us in once again. The slower approach of the intro and "Automation" creates this exotic feeling, that allows us to hear about our current times fearfully instead of remaining complacent. Though it has less dynamic fury, the way they're able to break their sound apart and create a more spread out acoustic on "Straws in the Wind" is really fascinating. "Ontology" feels like tumbling through a kaleidoscope, and with a wonderful fake-out before it truly takes off. Weirdly enough, it's the vintage dance-pop played against a kind of Middle Eastern funk on "Intrasport" that steals the show amidst their overall discography.
Lexxicon — Doing to Me (Toronto)
Taking a smooth R&B movement and infusing a bounce of low-key dance beats, Lexxicon's latest track is a soft but pervasive hit. Harmonies creep on this song really building the sense of urgency in Lexxicon's passion as each verse seems more dire. It's hard to ignore the dance club energy of it all, but the subtle way that it's factored in seems to add to the romance in Lexxicon's message. Alliston Davis's approach speed things up and provides a contrast to the otherwise understated one-two-step of the song. The rich colours of Lexxicon's new video for the track also highlight the range of timbres on the track, to lay out a visual counterpoint.
Megan Thee Stallion — Good News (Pearland, Texas)
Following the huge sweep of attention she's gotten through "W.A.P." this year, Megan Thee Stallion brought the record to back it up. Though Stallion's delivery easily outshines the production here often, when she gets the right track she soars. This album is unabashedly sexual and self-indulgent, and might just be one of the best records of the year for it, you just have to listen through a few times. "Shots Fired" sees her dropping wall-to-wall lines with the back-and-forth of a full group, swapping styles and constantly finding a moment to drop more attitude on. "Cry Baby" is triumphantly dirty, bringing a lewd, Lil Kim level of explicitness to create this song that is constantly either hilarious or surprisingly groundbreaking. Likewise "Body" leads with a sense of self-love and celebrates Stallion's own confidence and sexuality with a sense of fun, and even a Carole Baskin line for good measure. "Savage Remix" comes in harder than ever, with Beyoncé's harmonies and rap verse constantly surprising.