Joan Wasser had plenty to do to equal the brilliance of her debut, but in To Survive,...
Chris Long 2008
Joan Wasser experienced nearly every high and low that the music industry and life in general has to offer en-route to the release of her debut album, Real Life, in 2006. The ups hit their pinnacle when she played an integral part of Anthony And The Johnsons' success in 2005, the downs descended to their lowest point when her then-boyfriend, Jeff Buckley, tragically died in 1997. Little wonder then, that Real Life was an album of extreme emotion, topped off with the simply stunning and utterly heartbreaking Eternal Flame.
So the making of the traditionally difficult second album must have seemed a little less daunting to Wasser. Indeed, her only problem seems to have been finding time to actually get into a studio to record it, as the gathering momentum around her career has seen her tour Real Life for the best part of 18 months.
Thankfully, time was carefully managed, and To Survive is everything that a fan of that delicious debut could have hoped for – a piano-led exploration of love and life, that drips with sophistication.
The lead single, To Be Loved, is typical of what's on offer, a slinky downbeat number that slides around your soul, leaving you more than satisfied.
It is, by no means, the only beauty on offer. To Be Lonely is a subtle splendour, Wasser's voice curling around a simple piano melody, while the title track picks up a similar thread, its delicacy adorned with a lick or two of luscious strings.
Elsewhere, Magpies, with its breezy brass and references to Joan of Arc, is a gentle revelation, as is the equally impressive Hard White Wall, a meandering delight that peaks and troughs in thrilling style.
But it is the closing To America that really bursts out of the collection. An opus to her homeland which is at once both indignant and celebratory, it features Rufus Wainwright and could easily stand as a sister piece to his own Going To A Town.
Joan Wasser had plenty to do to equal the brilliance of her debut, but in To Survive, she has done just that, cementing her status as as an intriguing and compelling artist.