No-one can accuse Joan Wasser of not being dark – her last two albums were informed by death, and it showed in the sorrowful lyrics and, on To Survive, the haunting use of the piano. But something has changed in Joan, and on her latest album there’s something much more hopeful in her songs that suggests she’s moving on from the tragic moments in her life.
It’s clear from opener ‘Nervous’ that Joan feels stronger, with her voice sounding less fragile than before and the full guitar riffs that jab throughout the song underline this. She continues the theme of hope on the sleek and sophisticated ‘Magic’, what could be considered a more “classic” Joan song – but those alterations in theme make it easier to listen to than her previous work. ‘Run For Love’ is probably the standout track in The Deep Field as its guitar riffs almost sneak up on you and pounce from nowhere. You think it’s going to be a slow understated track but it transforms into a sensual creature thanks to its pulsating riffs and Joan’s growl.
Despite these wonderful moments, when listening to The Deep Field you can’t help but get the feeling that this is an album still trying to escape from the darker constraints of its predecessors. As a result, a lot of it feels quite contained compared to its best three tracks. It’s this kind of enclosed feeling that hovers over The Deep Field that means Joan probably won’t shake off her image as being a pin-up girl for easy listening any time soon. Even though she happily breaks free and shows her rock credentials, too much of the album sounds laid-back and washes over you with little impact.
The Deep Field could have been a great blueprint for Joan’s new, happier direction, yet she still falls into the pitfalls of her previous works, both flawed by occasionally sounding like easy-listening. Still, there are some moments to savour here, even if it is only a glimpse into what could have been.
The Deep Field is out now on Play It Again Sam Records. You can check out ‘Magic’ below.