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Album reviews
Leven Kali
Release year:
20 May 2020 / by Anita Kadiri (author)

Genre: R&B, Neo-Soul 

As our days continue to feel weighed down with worry and anxiety, Leven Kali’s latest project HIGHTIDE is a badly needed breath of fresh air. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter, and producer is creating a buzz for himself with his promising debut that follows his first record, Low Tide. As the titles suggest, HIGHTIDE feels like almost a sequel of sorts to his previous album, with the Los Angeles-based musician showcasing his emotional growth between albums. Kali tows the line between sensual and groovy as the production on this album brings traces of 90’s R&B and hip hop while still having a contemporary edge, with guest appearances from Syd, Ty Dolla $ign, Smino, and Topaz Jones.  

The Netherlands-born Kali centres his experiences in California, where he was raised and currently resides. He highlights the dreaminess of the Golden State throughout the project, lamenting over the love he finds among his picturesque surroundings. His imagination runs wild as he swoons: “I think I fell in love/fell in love with a rich girl from the Hills” in ‘Rich Girl’. 

The guitar-led tracks are catchy with infectious head-bopping production and a revved-up chorus. The well worn mix of smooth talking lyrics and electrifying guitar effects bring out the - as Kali calls it -  "Rock&B" elements of his sound. ‘Get By’ and ‘Fire in Your Eyes’ are energizing tracks with sharp break beats and shiny guitar lines. 

Experimentation with pitch shifting and synths are incorporated in ‘Rich Girl’ and ‘Vida’s Song (Stillness)’. Kali grew up amongst musicians, including his mother who sings ‘Vida’s Song (Stillness)’. With pitched up vocals and blended harmonies, this track finds HIGHTIDE at its most expansive and dreamlike. 

It is easy to get lost in Kali’s voice on tracks with minimalistic production. His silky harmonies are brought to the forefront, layered over the violin and piano instrumentation in tracks like ‘Made 4 U’ and ‘Perfect is Boring’, making for classic bedroom pop jams. 

This 13-track soul-flavoured album is the sunshine for your cloudy day. Kali’s smooth vocal delivery and catchy melodies coordinate effortlessly with his diversified beats. The fine balance between vocal production and instrumentation makes for an organic sounding record. While we're trapped inside, Kali opens up the window to a fresh summer breeze. HIGHTIDE brings to mind those summer days of bliss we are craving now more than ever. 


Rating: 7.5/10 

Hits: Homegirl, Made 4 U, Vidas Song (Stillness), 12345 (Get Real)


The author

Anita Kadiri

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