Joan As Police Woman: Damned Devotion
Joan Wasser is one of those rare singersongwriters who takes her time with each new album, and not just because she’s an incurable perfectionist in the studio. Put simply, it’s no picnic to wrestle with the slippery duality of human nature and relationships, above all when life compels you to walk such a precariously thin line—between love and hate, trust and torment, fulfillment and heartbreak—with every lyric you commit to paper. The triple entendre of Damned Devotion, the title of her sixth proper solo full-length, just about says it all: No matter how well-intentioned your path, chaos always lurks around the next bend, poised to throw cold water on the fleeting moments of ecstatic wonder that make life worth living. It’s not at all a cynical view though; when Wasser sings, “I have loved deceivers, I tend to trust the villain/ I’ve been fine with learning it the hard way” on the sweet, soulful “Warning Bell,” she doesn’t sound resigned to harsh reality, but strengthened by naked truth. Even the music, often stripped down to throwback electronic beats or the chopped-up grooves that Wasser built with drummer Parker Kindred and keyboardist Thomas Bartlett, reveals a deceptive simplicity and a focused energy. It lives in the robotic tech-funk (and the infectious “You better get ready” refrain) of “Steed (for Jean Genet).” It courses through the angelic chorus of the title track, the wistful, dreamy lilt of “What Was It Like” or the nightclubbing sway of “Talk About It Later.” And the overarching message seems to boil down to one thing: Music can save your life.