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Ghostly

I SHOULD CALL THEM Dua Saleh

£14.99 Pre-Order
Condition: Brand New
Release date: Oct 11, 2024
Catalogue number: GI432CD
Barcode: 0804297843223
Condition: Brand New
Release date: Oct 11, 2024
Catalogue number: GI432LPC1
Barcode: 0804297843230
Format: CD

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The music of LA-based Sudanese-American artist Dua Saleh (they/them) explores the inner self and the world at large. With their long-awaited full-length debut, a collection of R&B-infused electronic indie-pop songs titled I SHOULD CALL THEM, they portray the spiritual power, resilience, and joy of love. Equal parts imaginative and lived-through, it's a statement record only Saleh could make.

Across three EPs since 2019, heralded by The New York Times ("commanding"), NPR ("visionary"), and Pitchfork ("ambitious and riveting") — alongside their breakout role in the Netflix series Sex Education — Saleh has deftly fused and inverted genre conventions with a socially conscious style driven by melody, grit, and bravado. Saleh’s foundation as first a skilled poet and their close ties to the indigenous roots have enriched their music with incredible depth. In 2023, they signed with Ghostly International with the punk-leaning standalone single “daylight falls” and took the cover of GAY TIMES as their Rising Star in Music honour recipient. Now squarely at the helm of their first LP — guests include Ambré, Gallant, serpentwithfeet, and Sid Sriram — Saleh shapes their most vulnerable work to date, an apocalyptic narrative informed by environmental anxieties and their experiences as a lover, holding personal truth and hope amidst chaos. Sonically, the album ushers in a new era for the artist whose boundless sound continues to expand.

"It's important for me to heal by being fully myself," says Saleh, referring to the outsized role identity and gender expression play in their process. "I am being honest with myself with this record, this is my story." They see queer love as an act of defiance, be it figuratively, in the album's storyline, which follows two lovers at the end-of-times, or literally, in the many oppressed cultures around the world. They reference inspirations in popular culture with trans and queer representation such as Japanese manga and various memes like the one the album’s title winks at. They credit Minnesota, where Saleh came of age, for its inclusivity and catalyzing encouragement, and pay homage to the Midwest with the pulsing opening track "chi girl," which details the playful pursuit of a crush in Chicago.

Saleh finds a kindred spirit in serpentwithfeet, who duets with them on the striking, string-backed "unruly." "Something about his voice is so captivating," says Saleh. "I think our connection musically is queerness, being able to have that against-all-odds connection with somebody where we may have had to resist our identity initially when we were younger. There's a power that queerness holds for both of us." The song pairs otherworldly atmospherics with a tangible bounce. serpentwithfeet rings questions into the night ("how'd I get so unruly") as Saleh trails with hushed hooks and sly verses.

Throughout I SHOULD CALL THEM, Saleh is elastic in how they use their voice and tune the scenery to love's sweetness and the moments that challenge it. "want" uses straightforward R&B rock elements to underscore feelings of betrayal and resignation. "pussy suicide" is pure jealousy. Flanked by a looping guitar riff and moody trap beat, Saleh's delivery adopts different pitches, from low, morphing drawls to high-register raps. They go tender on the Sid Sriram-featuring "time & time again." Saleh says the song reflects someone who "could have been the forever person but we weren't meant to be in this time. We still have this deep bond and, maybe this happens more in queer relationships, we still look out for each other." It embodies the softness required to survive.

On the smooth, surrealist back half highlight "television," they harmonize with Ambré. "I feel a spiritual rush when I listen to the music that comes out of New Orleans, and I feel it in my gut with Ambré’s," says Saleh. Gallant guests on "coast," playing the classic R&B counterpart to Saleh's hyper-pop-inspired vocal take. Album closer "2excited" finds the characters in Saleh's story embracing a rapturous love realized as the world crumbles — signaled by a 'Black Metal R&B' blowout of ascending percussion and guitar, saxophone sighs, and guttural cries. It is ecstasy and dread personified, catharsis for modern times, and a thrilling example of an artist unafraid and thriving.

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Format: CD