NPR logo Joan as Police Woman: 'Eternal Flame'

Joan as Police Woman: 'Eternal Flame'

Joan Wasser is "Joan as Police Woman." hide caption

toggle caption

Joan Wasser is "Joan as Police Woman."

Joan as Police Woman is the solo project of Joan Wasser, who was previously (un)known as a talented violinist with Antony and the Johnsons and Rufus Wainwright. Now "as Police Woman," she adds piano and guitar to her arsenal, creating one of the most memorable albums of recent years.

Real Life is an honest and powerful debut from the first-time bandleader, who's also been a supporting player in alt-rock bands like Those Bastard Souls and The Dambuilders. "When I started singing, I was always trying to get to the truth, Wasser says. "When I was making this record, I was obsessed with being as truthful as possible."

Her savvy use of seemingly disparate musical styles functions as a perfect metaphor for life in New York City. Her intimate piano arrangements are augmented by distorted violin solos ("Christobel"), funk-jazz bass ("Save Me"), and James Brown-style horns ("Anyone").

The breezy 12/8 gospel groove of "Eternal Flame" features tasty ebowed guitar, as well as a variety of vocal flourishes courtesy of Wasser and one ground-rumbling male bass singer. Lyrically, her tactful honesty brings to mind a more sympathetic Elvis Costello, as she sings, "Just in case you never knew, I can't be the lighter of your eternal flame."