Buy Here | Listen Below
In recent years, California has been a hotbed for talent in R&B and Soul. Acts like Anderson .Paak, The Internet and SiR have provided a wave of creativity. And the wave continues with Low Tide, the eclectic debut from Leven Kali. Like his peers, Kali pulls from multiple genres. But soulfulness is the common thread that pulls together the different sounds on his project.
Kali is a singer, songwriter and producer that hails from Santa Monica. Before his debut, he put out memorable singles, toured with Snoh Aalegra and contributed to Drake’s 2017 album More Life. Yet, Low Tide is the true introduction to Kali. From Funk-tinged beats to breezy, laid back vocals, Kali's project places you in the coast he's from.
From the moment Low Tide begins, it seems like you're entering a new space. The first track, "Welcome," opens with what sounds like a faulty spaceship transmission. The broken signal is followed by angelic, hymn-like harmonies. The two sounds couldn't differ more, with the former being suspenseful and the latter peaceful. Yet, both parts of the song set an otherworldly atmosphere.
This "other world" continues to unfold on the next track, titled "Mine." N.E.R.D. used Seeing Sounds as one of their album titles, and "Mine" by Kali may be what it's like to hear color. The song has the vibrance of abstract art, as various sounds and vocals combine like different shades of paint thrown at a canvas. The elements seem to clash—thumping bass, soothing harmonies, herky jerky rhythm, bright synths. But the trippy and almost chaotic arrangement still comes together to reflect the emotion in Kali's lyrics. He sings, "I get high when I think about love," so it's only right that "Mine" is a psychedelic ride.
"Mine" is followed by a song that isn't as dizzying, but still keeps the energy high. "Cassandra" is an upbeat groove that finds Kali wooing a special lady. His verses on the song are as melodic as the chorus, inviting fans to sing along from start to finish. And the production is bright thanks to the drums and horns that drive the song. "Cassandra" sounds like beach days and house parties—the fun times that breed new love.
"Cassandra" is evidence of how Kali shines on feel-good tracks. But he's far from one-dimensional and makes this clear on "Nunwrong," one of the most beautiful songs you'll hear this year. The guitar-driven ballad will reel you in with steadying drum play and harmonies straight out of Sunday service. Kali's smooth tone meshes with the easygoing production to make the perfect sound bed for his words. He sings, "I believe in love, I needed love / I believe in love, it makes you feel like nothing's wrong." These lyrics and the ones that follow are simple, yet touching. And Kali lends them the heartfelt delivery they deserve.
Another standout track is "Do U Wrong," Kali's collaboration with Syd of The Internet. The song is really smooth, capable of making the Ari Golds of the world mellow out. Syd and Kali's voices don't belt, but glide over the beat as they each kick game to a new flame. Their lyrics are flirtatious, and even daring at times. But the duo delivers their words effortlessly, making them all the more believable.
"Do U Wrong" epitomizes the sound being trademarked by California's young talent. But Kali also revisits a classic style in R&B. On "1 on 1," Kali pulls off the difficult task of triggering nostalgia without sounding dated. The song is reminiscent of slow jams from the New Jack Swing era. But Kali has such a distinct tone that I can't imagine anyone else singing the song. Instead of sounding like an old demo for Aaron Hall, "1 on 1" sounds like something new that's inspired by the past.
Whether he's innovating or paying homage, Kali impresses throughout on Low Tide. The only complaint listeners may have is that they want to hear more from him, since the 11-track project includes some interludes and long beat breakdowns. But what we do hear from Kali shows that he's a mindful artist. He reinterprets his own songs, draws from many musical traditions and commands his voice with ease. Low Tide is a compact project, but the talent it displays from Kali is immense.
Notable Tracks: "1 on 1" | “Cassandra” | "Do U Wrong" | “Nunwrong”