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Joan As Police Woman - To Survive

Joan As Police Woman, To Survive

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF Real Life brought Joan Wasser out of the shadows and established her as a truly unique and original voice, then its follow-up To Survive is certain to cement her reputation as something special.

It may be dripping in melancholy, as many of the songs were partly inspired by her mother’s death from cancer, but there’s a heart-melting quality about this new collection of songs that’s only best appreciated after a few listens.

Joan herself makes no apology for the heartfelt nature of the material, stating in the album’s PR: “I’m always trying to dig deeper into the emotional experience. I want to access the most honest place I can, distill it and present it in a way that makes sense musically.”

Evidence of this is found in songs such as To Be Loved and its counterpart, To Be Lonely, or the aching Start of My Heart – all ballads of the highest order.

The latter, in particular, is a mesmerising slow-burner, built around a warped – even haunting – guitar riff and a skew-wiff beat. Wasser is seductively melancholy, her serene vocals offset neatly by a backing troupe who drift in and out of proceedings to add extra depth and resonance.

To Be Loved, meanwhile, is a perfect contrast, opening with a breezier sense of melody and the unashamedly optimistic lyric, “I’m so happy to be loved”. It’s one to conquer the hardest heart and even boasts a Karen Carpenter sensibility vocally.

To Be Lonely, meanwhile, is a brooding, deeply soulful, piano-drenched effort that plunges to the depths of personal despair – Wasser’s vocals so fragile they sound like they might burst into tears at any moment.

It’s a measure of Wasser’s growing confidence that Joan As Police Woman can flit from sorrow to happiness with effortless ease. Just when you fear things might be getting a little too sombre, they toss in a breezy treat.

Hence, tracks like Hard White Wall and Furious, with its “woo ooh” intro and chiming organs, offer nice pick-me-ups from some of the darker excursions, while there’s a keen sense of Broadway-inspired theatricality surrounding her collaboration with Rufus Wainwright on album closer In America that cleverly tips Wasser’s hat to past work the listener may have missed.

It’s a slow-building, but ultimately very lively, horn-inflicted final salvo that ensures you depart the album with the right kind of feelgood glow.

If you have yet to discover the delights of Joan As Police Woman, then To Survive is a suitably impressive entry point.

Download picks: To Be Loved, Start Of My Heart, Hard White Wall, Furious, Holiday

Track listing:

  1. Honour Wishes
  2. Holiday
  3. To Be Loved
  4. To Be Lonely
  5. Magpies
  6. Start Of My Heart
  7. Hard White Wall
  8. Furious
  9. To Survive
  10. To America