album reviews

Joan As Police Woman
the Deep Field
Play It Again Sam (2011)

Kindred spirits: Feist, Emily Haines, Joss Stone.

Joan Wasser, who records under the name Joan as Police Woman, can't quite keep up with the company she keeps. Her musical connections read like a who's who of rock: She was Jeff Buckley's girlfriend when he drowned in 1997; she played violin in the Dambuilders; and she has performed or recorded with such musicians as Antony and the Johnsons, Rufus Wainwright, and Lou Reed.

That kind of pedigree doesn't always translate to a compelling solo career, though, and Wasser's latest album, "The Deep Field", is hit or miss. The high points are reminiscent of Feist's best work. The up-tempo "The Magic" scampers with a frenzied energy, while "Run for Love" settles into a sultry groove. The down-tempo "Flash" stretches its dreamlike haze to nearly eight minutes; Wasser's unhurried vocals sound as though they're emerging from a tortured trance.

Despite such enchanting moments, much of "The Deep Field" sounds like easy-listening R&Bmp;. Her warbling on "Human Condition" draws attention to the song¿s mundane lyrics, and her words on the grating "Chemmie" are just clumsy ""Cuz we got chemmie / we got a naughty chemical reaction"). Other songs, such as the languid "Forever and a Year", just fade into the background, and that's precisely the problem. Wasser is capable of grabbing attention, and it's disappointing when she falls short.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 29 April 2011
.: the Deep Field on