Cold Specks, the stage name of Ladan Hussein, released her third album, Fool’s Paradise, through Arts & Crafts on September 22. It finds Hussein exploring her identity as a Somali-Canadian woman and expanding on sounds and themes addressed on her previous albums.
Early single “Wild Card” announced that Fool’s Paradise was moving in a different direction from 2014’s Neuroplasticity. Where the music on Cold Specks’ second album was brittle and harsh, “Wild Card” is soothing and warm. Hussein’s mother inspired the lyrics, the artist explained in a press release.
“There was a man in my family’s store, a new refugee, who had traveled from Somalia to Canada … My mother had never met him before. He was a complete stranger from a familiar place. She took him to a local restaurant, fed him, and found him somewhere to stay. I was astonished by her selflessness and kept humming ‘I’ll be there for you. Don’t know why.’”
Hussein sings in Somali for the first time on the album-opening title track, which she dedicates to the semi-mythical Somali queen Araweelo. A queen of female empowerment and known to castrate male prisoners, Araweelo has been variously portrayed throughout the centuries as either heroine or misandrist. Discussing the song in W Magazine‘s premiere of the track Hussein said, “It’s really difficult existing as a black Muslim woman in this world — especially a Somali woman … I started digging into Araweelo’s history, and I was just empowered by it all. I found solace in Araweelo.”
Both I Predict a Graceful Explosion, Cold Specks’ 2012 debut album, and Neuroplasticity contain an element of uncertainty to them; until 2015, Hussein was credited as Al Spx to keep her musical career a secret and avoid disappointing her family. Not coincidentally, both I Predict… and Neuroplasticity feel packed with anxiety raging just under the surface.
Now publicly known as Ladan Hussein, Cold Specks unleashed that emotion on Fool’s Paradise. Rather than an explosion (graceful or otherwise), the result is a beautiful, intimate album able to share the dark and the light.
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