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Fool's Paradise [Slipcase] *
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  • Audio Mixer: Jim Anderson .
  • Recording information: Easy Life Studio.
  • Photographer: Norman Wong.
  • After releasing Neuroplasticity, Cold Specks' Ladan Hussein revisited her roots, both locally and globally. She returned to her Toronto hometown and dug into her Somali heritage, which included her father's founding role in a band called Iftin during the '70s. Watching VHS footage of the band playing sparked her interest in Somalia and especially its capital city Mogadishu, where her father's family lived before the civil war scattered her relatives across the globe. Hussein channeled this inspiration into Fool's Paradise, a collection of songs about loss, hope, and survival that ranks among her finest work. She draws on the strength of her heritage, most strikingly on the title track, where she invokes Araweelo, a semi-mythical Somalian queen and quotes the Somali idiom "kala garo naftaada iyo laftaada" ("understand the difference between your bones and your soul") over moody R&B with a '70s tinge. The album's smooth, stripped-down sound is miles away from both I Predict a Graceful Expulsion's doom-folk and the more experimental Neuroplasticity, but as Hussein's music evolves, her voice remains the focus; the mingled pain and resilience she expresses on "Rupture" -- which was inspired by a family friend being shot and killed near his home -- is palpable. Likewise, when she sings "I'll be there for you/Don't know why" on "Wild Card," it's apparent she perseveres because she has to. As mournful as Fool's Paradise can get, it also reflects how Hussein has learned to temper the moodier parts of her music with more hopeful elements, and later songs such as "New Moon" and "Exile" complete its journey of growth and acceptance. Her richest music yet, Fool's Paradise is a beautiful portrait of Hussein's heritage and artistry. ~ Heather Phares
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