Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis – Let It Be You (4 stars)

Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis – Let It Be You


Traditional themes defy convention on new album from Brooklynite Joan Wasser

On her 2006 debut album, Real Life, Joan As Police Woman – alias Joan Wasser – dueted with Antony Hegarty (now known as ANOHNI) on a groove-pop ballad called 'I Defy'. 'How could it be different?' Wasser sang, and it feels like she's explored that question through her music ever since.

She's done so by skewing her experimental, soulful aesthetic with other voices, vantage points and collaborations: with Hegarty on her calling card; with Rufus Wainwright on her second album (2008's To Survive); and with Chris Dowd of hardcore-funk trailblazers Fishbone, who proclaimed her to be 'one soulful mothafucka' (he's not wrong) – not to mention Wasser's role as producer on Lau's outstanding 2015 album, The Bell That Never Rang.

That latter credit underscores another way that Wasser has upended the status quo in her work. She's long challenged the prevailing male-led rock narrative, wherein blokes are behind the mixing desk, and history sings to the tune of dudes with guitars (she allies herself with Feist and Martha Wainwright and had a nascent love for Diana Ross).

Even traditional themes defy convention on the excellent Let It Be You, her album in cahoots with fellow Brooklynite Benjamin Lazar Davis. Despite its name, 'Motorway' is not a kraut-rock or drive-pop anthem, but a celestial, tech-orchestral lullaby, and 'Station' is not a launchpad for freedom, but rather a study in stillness: a chiming guitar lament that's resilient enough to weather the dark night and bare its tears – and a celebration of strength and vulnerability that's echoed in the sublime, industrial electro of 'Broke Me in Two'.

Environmental machine-pop dirge 'Overloaded', meanwhile, chimes with the latest protest songs from Wasser's former sonic sparring partner ANOHNI, and serves to remind that over ten years since they first worked together, they remain among pop's most singular voices.

Let It Be You is out via Reveal on Fri 21 Oct.

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