Sound Advice: “Holland” by Cold Specks
It took moving to the UK for formerly local songwriter Cold Specks to win the hearts of Canadians with her debut seven-inch, "Holland."
It’s strangely tricky to find information about Etobicoke native Cold Specks, whose debut seven-inch single officially dropped last week via local name-making label Arts and Crafts. Maybe you’ve already heard of her; she’s currently opening up for St. Vincent on a few tour dates, and played with her last week at the Phoenix. Despite hailing from the GTA, it wasn’t until Cold Specks (an alias for Al Spx, which seems like an alias itself) moved to the U.K. that listeners in North America began to hear about her music.
According to the Star‘s profile, Cold Specks was discovered after passing a demo along to a friend, whose brother happened to be producer Jim Anderson (who’s worked with Los Campesinos! and Mark Ronson). The seven-inch was recorded by Anderson at Sub Bubble Recording Studio in London, and since then, Cold Specks has been blowing up up on all the right UK sites, like the Guardian and NME.
The soulful timbre of Specks’ voice on the A-Side, “Holland,” has been rightfully compared to Sister Rosetta Tharpe; we also find she sounds like a bit of a grittier, drunker Stevie Nicks, or a sassy, feminine Win Butler. The B-side, “Old Stepstone,” is sung as a solo a cappella number, and manages to remain captivating the whole time. After a riveting performance of the song on BBC Two’s Later With Jools Holland (the show that launched Adele’s career), it seems like only a matter of time before Kanye uses it as a sample—both these songs are begging to be remixed with a beat underneath.
Just as mainstream listeners in the 1960s weren’t, perhaps, ready for rock ‘n’ roll music until the British invasion of groups like the Beatles cemented the genre in their minds, it seems Toronto wasn’t ready for Cold Specks until she brought her music back to us via the UK. We’re sorry we didn’t hear about Cold Specks earlier, because she’s the type of performer you feel privileged to know about in advance.