Album: Joan As Police Woman, To Survive (Reveal)

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The Independent Culture

Joan Wasser's follow-up to 2006's Real Life is a comparatively stripped-down affair, the singer preferring to leave her songs less encumbered by elaborate arrangements. The exception is "Magpies", on which the string and horn counterpoints and backing vocals throw the serpentine melody away from the song's centre.

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Far more satisfying are pieces like "Honor Wishes", on which her soulful timbre is underscored by stalking piano, vibes and baritone moan; and "Furious", where her war metaphors are carried by jazzy piano and flamenco handclaps. Her romantic imagery has an idiosyncratic power, the paired torch-songs "To Be Loved" and "To Be Lonely" containing lines as subtly wrought as "I feel the sigh of every breath that's led us here" and "This is the one I'll try to be lonely with", respectively.

"To Survive" is based on a lullaby once sung by her mother to allay her fears of being burnt at the stake, while the arrangement of "To America", her duet with Rufus Wainwright, has shades of Kurt Weill, aptly so given its subtext of capitalist corruption.

Pick of the album: 'Honor Wishes', 'To America', 'Furious', 'To Be Loved'

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