The name Joan Wasser is not well-known to most people, but it should be. Collaborating first with bands like The Dambuilders in the ‘90s and, more recently, Antony and the Johnsons, Joan Wasser first came onto the music scene as Joan as Police Woman in 2006 with her debut album, Real Life. The album was critically acclaimed for its haunting honesty and beauty, and her sophomore release, To Survive, fortunately sticks with that formula.
The ten tracks on To Survive are soulful. Wasser ranges from sounding like Kate Bush to Chan Marshall to Neil Young with a common thread of vulnerability. While Wasser’s lyrics are far from self-assured, their honesty is the most appealing thing about To Survive. She does not convey the voice of a strong woman, but one that life has kicked around quite a few times and is looking to hold on to something or for someone to hold on to her.
The album is hopeful and realistic. In the title track, Wasser conveys that life is not perfect, and in times of depression and loneliness, you must just find “the spark to survive.” For Wasser, that spark appears to be love. The album ends with “To America,” a duet with Rufus Wainwright in which the lyrics warn not to starve yourself of love because it will save you. This realization explains the importance and urgency Wasser places on love throughout To Survive and the beautiful, building duet is the perfect ending to an album about the imperfections and loneliness of life and the things that can rescue you.