Fever Ray returns with “What They Call Us”

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Swedish enigma Fever Ray has a new song out today called “What They Call Us.” It’s the project’s first new music in five years.

For a shape-shifting artist known for shaking up their sound with each album cycle, “What They Call Us” feels surprisingly like a castoff from Fever Ray’s last album. It’s a low-key, mid-tempo dirge that uses their trademark voice modulation to stretch Fever Ray’s voice into a murmur, yet it barely introduces any dynamic elements across its four-minute running time. The song just never seems to go anywhere. I’m pretty underwhelmed—we waited five years for this—but perhaps it will grow on me.

Notably, the song is co-produced by Fever Ray’s Karin Dreijer and their brother Olof Dreijer. I believe it’s the first Fever Ray song credited to Olof, their former bandmate from their highly influential band The Knife. He has done some Fever Ray remixes though. The Knife broke up in 2014 after their Shaking The Habitual tour, so this might be the closest thing we’ll get to a Knife reunion.

Fever Ray’s last album was Plunge

“What They Call Us” is Fever Ray’s first new song since releasing their sophomore album, Plunge, in 2017. Synthpop Fanatic didn’t exist in 2017, but I made personal lists of my favorite music, and Plunge topped my list of the year’s best albums.

Plunge’s skittish electronics and queer subject matter represented a massive departure in sound and content from Fever Ray’s self-titled debut that arrived in 2009. That album was shrouded in fog and mysticism, featuring earthly lines like “I’m laying down, eating snow. My fur is hot, my tongue is cold.” Thematically, it covered pregnancy and motherhood—Karin was pregnant when they composed it. The album’s most famous track, “If I Had a Heart” plays over the opening credits of the Nordic TV series Vikings.

“What They Call Us” belongs to a new project Fever Ray calls “Office Party.” They began teasing it on social media last month with images of a cinnamon roll, microwave, and ultimately Karin wearing an ill-fitting suit and working at a computer. Presumably, it’s the lead single from their upcoming third album. In a recent social media AMA, a fan asked Fever Ray, “If debut album was motherhood, second album was queer awakening, what’s third?”

Fever Ray’s response: “Love.”

Fever Ray “What They Call Us” lyrics

Oddly enough, the lyrics for “What They Call Us” have been available for two years. Most of the lyrics originally appeared in a magazine exploring the visual world of previous album Plunge.

First I’d like to say that I’m sorry
I’ve done all the tricks that I can
Cinnamon bun in the oven
There’s a fire in my hand

Did you see the light this morning
Sometimes there’s this extra air
Sometimes I can keep my mouth open
I will stay if I dare

Did you hear what they call us?
Did you hear what they said?
My plan was flexible
Don’t get stuck anywhere

Can I just hold you for a minute
Some things just aint easy to repair
The person who came here was broken
Can you fix it, can you care

Did you hear what they call us?
Did you hear what they said?
I’ve got a plan that’s flexible
Just don’t stop anywhere

It’s a common misperception
This is not a band
Ready for a dissection
Now Mommy’s gotta work, see the land

Did you hear what they call us?
Did you hear what they said?
I’ve got a plan that’s flexible
Just don’t stop anywhere

You can find “What They Call Us” on Bandcamp and Spotify.

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