Cold Specks 
“How It Feels” 

Cold Specks [ Ted Belton]

I remember the first time I heard Cold Specks sing. It happened on June 13, 2011, about halfway through the run on my former music blog, Quick Before it Melts. I got a short, innocuous email from someone named Al Spx with a link to her SoundCloud site. In it, she said, “You seem to post a few bands I have a lot of love for, so maybe if you have five minutes, you could let me know what you think.” 

What I thought after hearing “Holland,” the only track she had posted to SoundCloud at that time, can’t easily be captured in words. It was more akin to being cast under a musical spell, the kind that shoots chills up and down your spine and spikes your brain with dopamine hits. She was an enigma with very little personal information available online (aside from being a Canadian living abroad in the UK). Within five months, Cold Specks would be the buzziest of buzz artists, signed to an equally buzzy label and officially releasing “Holland” as the introduction to her self-described “doom soul” sound. 

Much has happened in Al Spx’s life between then and now, and yet, I got a similar, familiar feeling coursing through my nervous system the other day when I heard her singing the opening lines of her latest single, “How It Feels.” The song itself is a reintroduction of sorts, as it is her first new music in seven years and follows a difficult and tumultuous period in her life. 

Written in 2019, in “one magical night in the dead of winter in a studio around midnight,” with collaborator Chantal Kreviazuk, the track is musically spare yet densely layered with piano by Johnny Spence, strings composed by Owen Pallett, and brass provided by Terry Edwards. Without fanfare, flourish, or flamboyance, Cold Specks lays down a remarkably assured vocal performance that still trembles with emotion and tension. The song’s lyrical sentiments are palpable in her quivering delivery: “I got money on the mind / Weight of words that I can’t find / Easy come, easy go / Fever dreams and shattered hearts / Voices stop me every start.”

Though initially protective and reserved about sharing details of her personal life, those of us following Cold Specks on social media in the last number of years caught just a tiny glimpse at the challenges she was facing, including manic episodes that resulted in hospitalizations, a bipolar diagnosis, financial instability, and an artist yearning start making music again. “How It Feels” is a matter-of-fact, raw and vulnerable reminder of how potent Cold Specks’s artistry is. 

I will never forget receiving that introductory email, but sadly, I can’t remember if I ever replied to her message to let her know what I thought of her work. It may be 13 years late, but I hope this message makes its way to her: I will always remember how Cold Specks’s singular voice made me feel in 2011, the first time I heard it, because it’s how I feel every time I listen to her sing.

Thanks for checking out DOMINIONATED

We rely on reader support to keep delivering Canadian music conversations like the one you’re reading.
Become a supporter and help keep DOMINIONATED’s conversations going.