Live preview: Joan As Police Woman

Joan Wasser taps into Motown and outer space on a soulful new album.

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Joan as Police Woman

Joan as Police Woman Photograph: Thatcher Keats

Mercury Lounge; Thu 14

Singer-songwriter Joan Wasser has long expressed admiration for Stevie Wonder's power to make positivity cool. And with The Deep Field (Play It Again Sam), her fourth studio recording as Joan as Police Woman, the classically trained violinist releases an album that exudes a relentless infatuation with life and living.

Wasser, currently on a U.S. tour, has been one of Antony's Johnsons, toured with Rufus Wainwright and led projects for producer Hal Willner. Now 40, she also experienced the death of her mother in 2007 and of boyfriend Jeff Buckley in 1997. She knows life, and has lived to tell about it. On The Deep Field, Wasser's most fully realized exploration to date of soul la Wonder, Gaye and Green, she applies her supremely confident, molten-honey voice to ten songs about owning vulnerability and honoring self, to ecstatic result. The album is thick with infectious beats and the glow of trademark Motown sounds: Tyler Wood's Moog bass and keys; Chris Brown's Clavinet and organ; Doug Wieselman's sax and bass clarinet; lush, stacked vocals from Toshi Reagon, Joseph Arthur and Shudder to Think's Nathan Larson; and a total of five bassists.

Certain ambient moments, with the airiness of Brian Eno and the sensual grit of DJ Spooky, lend a touch of funkadelic space music—fitting, since the real Deep Field is an area of distant galaxies spied by the Hubble telescope inside of Ursa Major. Perhaps Wasser's next project will be Joan as Cosmonaut.

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