Distinctively both understated and challenging, Damned Devotion is a hybrid of drafty indie pop and subdued electronica. For Joan Wasser, better known as her stage name Joan As Police Woman, this new musical endeavor is laced with personal successes and tragedies. There is a definitive groove in this album, as well as a keen eye for attention. The layering throughout each song is masterful and catches the ear off-guard with every listen. There’s always something more underneath, requesting that the listener dig deeper and appreciate Wasser’s work even further than just what is on the surface. The entire album requires our full attention, which is quite easily accomplished because of Wasser’s talent and longevity in the music business.
What is particularly charming about Wasser’s work in Damned Devotion is her ability to pull out lyrics that have a tendency to hit later on. A listener might not realize the effect a song has immediately, but then we are left with the aftermath, the now emblazoned memory. The subtleties are her purest strength, setting the table for a knockout blow later on in the album. Take, for instance, the title track in which Wasser faintly sings the bridge, “I tend to trust the villain / I’ve been fine with learning it the hard way”. Yes, these lyrics tend to leave a burn, but the punchline that follows in later songs like “I Don’t Mind”, (It’s a bowl of cherries / It’s a bowl of hand grenades) really drive home the essence of who Wasser is as an artist. She demands her audience to pay attention, which is a unique gift given the singles-driven culture in music today.
There are times, however, where it is difficult to nail down all of the intricate details of this album. With the amount of production going into each song, Wasser’s voice can be lost, her honesty mulled in flighty minimalistic ways. Her style is such that it can be difficult to pin down her downsized words over a sometimes chaotic musical overlay. Yet Wasser seems to embrace the chaos, reaching through her tangle of emotions to produce a somber and daring album. Her hardened integrity in songwriting is the reason to keep listening. Damned Devotion is as faithful to Wasser’s inner-most emotion as it gets. Her honesty is appreciated.