The Deep Field is the fourth album from Joan as Police Woman (Joan Wasser); a lady with lots of musical friends, who has sang with the likes of Rufus Wainwright but deserves more than to be always mentioned for who she is associated with. Honestly this album isn’t folk- but it isn’t any other one kind of music either. Joan Wasser’s sound is far too varied and interesting for categorising, except for putting it in the must-listen-to file.
The Deep Field is, as has been mentioned in all the press about it, for the most part a happier, lighter album than her previous work. Opening track ‘Nervous’ signals that Joan Wasser is feeling upbeat and wants to sing about it. She basically swaggers into this record with her vocal and takes the listeners attention completely. There is lots happening on this track and throughout the album musically and initially ‘Nervous’ felt like a lot to take in but after a listen or two that sense of the density is only positive.
The albums second track ‘The Magic’ is seriously brilliant- with a chorus you will be singing from the first time you hear it. From here the album moves confidently on to third track ‘Action Man’, which is sung in a similar punchy staccato to ‘The Magic’. While not as obviously catchy as it’s predecessor this song is still solid and towards the end it has some lovely strings which were very welcomed by this folk fan.
‘Flash’, is perhaps a more traditional Joan as Police Woman song; with the suggestion of melancholy or more accurately otherworldliness- although there is still a lightness in the instrumentation and delivery which stops this approaching angst. From this point in the album Wasser introduces other voices, there is a particularly rich and complimentary male voice accompanying her here- and providing some voice percussion or soul beat boxing if you like.
That male vocal features again on ‘Run for love’- which sees the album return to the more euphoric, synth led sound of the earlier tracks. ‘Human Condition’ is a simple, pared down song in comparison to much of this album which allows Wasser’s voice to really be heard without competing with other sounds.
For this reviewer the second half of the album reaches another level. ‘Kiss the Specifics’ is a retro infused, relaxed happy song about embracing love, life and the big themes- which sounds trite but the delivery is delicate, the music feels sun soaked and overall Kiss the Specifics carries you along and your feet a little off the ground.
‘Chemmie’ (Chemistry) is one of the albums stand out tracks- it’s soulful, bluesy even, confident and lyrically quirky. Wasser sounds drunk on life and that’s infectious.
‘Forever and a Year’ is somewhere between ballad and lullaby, it’s a soothing, comforting song the likes of which people sometimes forget to listen to listen to the lyrics for; these are extremely tender and feel intensely personal and are worth hearing.
The Album’s final song ‘I was Everyone’ sees Joan Wasser finding herself in everyone and everyone in herself. It begins relatively quietly and builds. As the celebration in the song grows Wasser really sings out for the first time. She is supported here again by some other fantastic voices and the track becomes anthemic with a suggestion of gospel and foot stomping before closing- as is fitting- with Joan’s voice alone saying ‘stand up and be heard’.
The Deep Field deserves to be heard, on one level it’s just a great record that will lift your day- but it’s also musically interesting and full of experimentation. Wasser doesn’t let herself be constrained by genre or trends and her enthusiasm for what she does shines through the album.
Words: Kim Deadman