Joan As Police Woman

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Editorial Review

Album review: "The Deep Field"

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&B. 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, April 29, 2011