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Fever Ray, 'What They Call Us'

"If debut album was motherhood, second was queer awakening. What's third?" wondered a fan on Instagram. Fever Ray's Karin Dreijer, in a cursive font that could only be described as basic domestique, answered: Love. Love has always been central to Fever Ray in some shape or form, but it is often haunted or obliterated sweetly by neon-blasted synths. There's no one way to love; Dreijer has been essential to its inside-out-but-genuine meaning.

With that in mind, Fever Ray's first original song since 2017's Plunge, "What They Call Us," is surprisingly subdued, but perhaps even stranger in its restraint. Squiggly synths, jumpy techno beats and Caribbean-inspired percussion call back to earlier work (the song was co-produced with Olof Dreijer, their brother and former partner in The Knife). But as Karin Dreijer has gone on their own shapeshifting quest, it's now even harder to tell if they've manipulated their voice. That, too, tracks in lyrics that read oblique, but sound a feeling that burns and yearns: "Cinnamon bun in the oven / There's a fire in my hand." (The cinnamon bun becomes microwaved bullar — the perfect pastry, says this son of a Swedish immigrant — in the office-party-gone-awry video directed by Martin Falck.) In "What They Call Us," there's an urgent sense that Dreijer, since their queer awakening, must protect that love.

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