Joan Wasser is a passionately honest lyricist who has performed alongside some incredible musicians but, until now, she has never burst forth with anything quite as dynamic as Damned Devotion, the fifth full-length studio album from her band Joan as Police Woman.
“This record is darker and more pensive,” Wasser said in a statement about her band’s latest album. “The title is undeniably dramatic but it’s a subject I’ve been tangling with all my life: how does one live a devoted life without becoming obsessed or losing one’s mind?”
The Norwalk, Conn., singer-songwriter channels this emotion into raw uncut melodies with her delightfully soulful and gripping vocals that really pull the listeners in.
The album opens with “Wonderful,” a softly spoken melody with a modern R&B vibe that makes for a heartwarming introduction to Damned Devotion.
“Warning Bell” is a haunting ballad that speaks to past mistakes and trying to learn from them but being unable to see the signs. Its layered vocals and ambient backdrop add to the lonesome piano playing at the center of the melody. She describes it as “being a romantic and the naiveté that goes along with it. While I don’t ever want to lose that innocence, I’ve been in situations where I wish there had been an alarm to wake me from my dream state.”
“If there was a warning bell / I’d know / But all I hear is music / Soft and low / I never see it coming”
Joan as Police Woman’s latest single, “Tell Me,” was released back in January, and is an infectious synthpop melody that is more than just a testament to the band’s leading lady. Apart from Wasser herself, who also plays the bass, the crux of the album is made up of Parker Kindred on drums, and Thomas Bartlett on keys.
“Steed (for Jean Genet)” has feel-good funky rhythm on this uplifting track named dedicated to the famous French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist, Jean Genet.
Wasser captures the artistically free-spirited nature of the album with the title track, “Damned Devotion,” a psychedelically bubbly indie rock song.
“The Silence” is a tour de force. It’s a powerfully enlighting feminist anthem about breaking the silence and societies taboos with the chant, “Her body! Her Choice!”
“Yes, it’s a political song,” she adds. “I recorded the chanting at the Women’s March in Washington. There’s a thread on this record about communication, about being vocal in what you believe in. My maxim is: if it feels scary to say it, it’s the thing you must say. The refrain is ‘It’s the silence that’s dulling the blade.’ This is what I’m talking about.”
Another noteworthy track, “Rely-On” is a charming hip-hop melody sprinkled with the sound of Wasser’s falsetto vocals, which ends with a very strange high-pitched tone—almost like nails on a chalkboard. “Talk about it later” has a jazzy uptempo swing when the electric bass guitar comes in.
The album closes with “I Don’t Mind,” another soft-spoken bit of poetry.
Joan as Police Woman come out triumphant in the end. Damned Devotion, available now from Belgium-based record label Play it Again Sam, is likely the group’s best record to date.
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