The Highs and Lows of Red Moon In Venus
By Max Miller
At her best, Kali Uchis is intoxicating. Her crooning vocals, over slower soulful drum pads and subdued bassy synth chords, is often breathtaking. The Virginia native’s airy vocals give the feeling that she is telling the listener a secret story not to be heard by those passing by. Uchis seems to float on top of her wonderfully crafted instrumentals, like some sort of mystic goddess of air. She sounds like she’s on a cloud, whispering to the listener about the trials and tribulations of her love life. At her worst, however, Kali Uchis will leave you scratching your head in confusion.
This is the story of Uchis’ latest album, Red Moon In Venus. It is good enough to fall in love with. Uchis sticks to her strengths for the most part, providing her signature light vocals over steady, relaxed instrumentals. The 28-year-old has developed her own sort of vintage sound, pairing old themes with new. There are certainly moments on this album where this sound feels seamless and well-polished. On “I Wish you Roses,” the first single on the album, Uchis is in her prime. The shimmering chords, repeated lyrical motifs, harmonies, and simple, catchy lyrics makes the song one of her best. The song shows off Uchis’ strong suits perfectly; it is clean, polished, well-produced, and vaguely nostalgic. Many of this comes from the pairing of spacy, soft keys with drums reminiscent of 1960s R&B and soul. These qualities are featured throughout the album (especially on cuts like “Love Between…” and “Moral Conscience”), making it not only easy, but fun to listen to.
And yet, along with everything that makes this album awesome, there are several moments that will have the listener slightly dazed. For example, the moaning in the outro of “Como Te Quiero Yo” is so uncomfortable to listen to. It feels so unnecessary. (This is a pointless observation, but artists moaning in a top-level recording studio is a funny image to me.) Also, the rap on “Hasta Cuando” is so forced and awkward, particularly the lines, “At the end of the day, she'd eat my pussy if I let her/At the end of the day, she'd trade lives with me if God let her.” The spoken outro does not do “Hasta Cuando” any favors, with Uchis saying, “Everybody hates me / Please, don't ask me about no old shit, peace.” It comes off as incredibly corny. Overall, the album explores themes of heartbreak, true love, and sexual encounters in a seemingly haphazard order. It feels like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive body of work.
Red Moon In Venus has its highlights and its lowlights. There are parts that shine. But, in general, the album plays without the listener really noticing. Each song has a way of blending into the next, not intentionally, but because they all have similar lyrical themes and sonic profiles. It sort of passes you by as you go about your day. It’s an album you can put on and half-listen to while folding laundry or cleaning your dorm room. It’s pretty good, serviceable at worst, but not great necessarily. It’s not particularly exciting by any means. It’s just kinda… solid.