12 Songs, 39 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

As much as American fans of roots and blues music would love to lay claim to Canada’s mysteriously named Al Spx (performing as Cold Specks), they just can’t do it; her powerful vocal style, subdued guitar picking, and sorrow-filled lyrics owe as much to giants of American blues, gospel, and folk as they do to contemporary influences like Tom Waits and Bill Callahan (Smog). Cold Specks hails originally from the Toronto area, and she now lives in London. This impressive, full-bodied debut—replete with cello, flugelhorn, electric guitars, keyboards, a gospel choir, and more—is a carefully nuanced blend of light and dark, regret and hope, despair and celebration. The soul-stirring, hymnal refrain of songs like “Winter Solstice” and “Reeling the Liars In,” the chilling, bluesy power of “Lay Me Down” and “Holland,” and the sultry, seductive call of “Hector” recall the hair-raising, evocative strength of artists like Cat Power and PJ Harvey. That may be due partly to the arrangements here by PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis (along with some by noted jazz producer Jim Anderson), but the spirit of the whole is 100 percent stone Cold Specks.

EDITORS’ NOTES

As much as American fans of roots and blues music would love to lay claim to Canada’s mysteriously named Al Spx (performing as Cold Specks), they just can’t do it; her powerful vocal style, subdued guitar picking, and sorrow-filled lyrics owe as much to giants of American blues, gospel, and folk as they do to contemporary influences like Tom Waits and Bill Callahan (Smog). Cold Specks hails originally from the Toronto area, and she now lives in London. This impressive, full-bodied debut—replete with cello, flugelhorn, electric guitars, keyboards, a gospel choir, and more—is a carefully nuanced blend of light and dark, regret and hope, despair and celebration. The soul-stirring, hymnal refrain of songs like “Winter Solstice” and “Reeling the Liars In,” the chilling, bluesy power of “Lay Me Down” and “Holland,” and the sultry, seductive call of “Hector” recall the hair-raising, evocative strength of artists like Cat Power and PJ Harvey. That may be due partly to the arrangements here by PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis (along with some by noted jazz producer Jim Anderson), but the spirit of the whole is 100 percent stone Cold Specks.

TITLE TIME
2:16
2:29
4:05
3:20
2:34
3:49
4:13
3:48
3:11
4:01
3:11
2:36

About Cold Specks

Born in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada and based in London, England, Ladan Hussein, who goes by the stage name Cold Specks, describes her signature sound as "doom soul." The child of Somali immigrants, Hussein dropped out of her political science studies at the University of Toronto and moved to London to make music steeped in the old gospel spirituals and traditional folk songs that famed musicologist Alan Lomax spent most of his life putting to tape. Her unique blend of deep Southern soul, Tom Waits/Jeff Buckley-inspired blues, and goth-tinged indie folk first caught the public's attention after an appearance on the popular British music program Later...With Jools Holland. She released her debut single, "Holland," in 2011, and in 2012 she inked a deal with Mute Records and released her debut album, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Her sophomore long-player, Neuroplasticity, arrived in 2014 and featured contributions by Swans' Michael Gira and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. While touring in support of the album, Hussein watched videotapes of her father's band, Iftin, which he founded in the '70s while living in Somalia. She learned more about her Somali heritage, particularly her family's hometown of Mogadishu before the war that scattered her relatives, and channeled it into her third album, Fool's Paradise. Co-produced by Hussein and Jim Anderson, the album featured Cold Specks' first songs in the Somali language as well as performances by Arcade Fire bassist Tim Kingsbury. ~ James Christopher Monger

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