With the release of her first two critically applauded and commercially successful albums I Predict A Graceful Expulsion! and Neuroplasticiy, the Canadian-Somali, Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter Ladan Hussein and her solo recording project Cold Specks received both national and international attention, and unsurprisingly her first two albums were nominated for the Polaris Music Prize with her her debut effort receiving a Juno Award nomination for Breakthrough Artist of the Year. In between a busy period of writing, recording and tour, Hussein also managed to be a hotly-desired collaborator, working with the likes of Moby, Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock, Swans and others.
After spending a portion of 2015 and 2016 touring to support Neuroplasticity, Hussein returned back to Toronto, where she began work on her recently released third, full-length effort Fool’s Paradise, an album in which Hussein exploring her identity as a Canadian-Somali woman, as a Black woman in a world brutal to Black people, as an artist and as the daughter of immigrants, who fled their homeland, and as someone surviving the best she can in difficult circumstances — and the album’s first single “Wild Card” is largely inspired by the refugee experience. “There was a man in my family’s store, a new refugee, who had travelled from Somalia to Canada. By water and by foot he had travelled half way around the world to establish a better life for himself and his family who were still at home,” Hussein explains. “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’.”
Produced by Jim Anderson at Toronto’s Easy Life Studio, the single features Arcade Fire‘s Tim Kingsbury playing bass on a hauntingly sparse arrangement and melody. Certainly, the latest track will further cement Hussein’s reputation for being an fearlessly uncompromising and emotionally direct; in this case, the single possesses a subtle but palpably weary ache underlined with simple yet profound joys — the profound joy of being treated kindly when you are “a traveler, a man from far away,” as Paul Salopek once wrote. But along with that, there’s a deep connection that one has for a place whenever you’re far away, and I can recall in many instances when I’ve traveled abroad, finding myself inexplicably bonding with a fellow American with familiar places (even those I’ve never been before) holding a mythical weight to them.
Created by Mac Boucher and Gnarly Bangs, the recently released video for “Wild Card” manages to nod at the videotapes her parents recorded that depict their lives with a country Hussein never knew and cheap homemade videos of people noodling around with a video recorder — and as a result, the visuals emphasize the song’s uncommon intimacy.