Joan As Police Woman's third album is named after an area of the distant constellation of Ursa Major as viewed through the Hubble space telescope, and its cosmic title reflects the stellar ambitions of the music within. New York art-rocker Joan Wasser has always pushed personal and musical boundaries, whether in her work with Antony and the Johnsons and Rufus Wainwright or in her own sporadic, quirkily intensive oeuvre, and The Deep Field represents her most profound excursion yet. Wasser has called the record a paean to positivity, but it is notably bereft of exhortations towards self-improvement. Rather, it is a subtle, nuanced album of murmured memories, snatched insights and half-glimpsed futures, realised through a music whose visceral delicacy and plangent intensity are frequently overwhelming.
As ever, Wasser acknowledges a debt to Tamla Motown on reflective neo-soul laments such as "Chemmie and Action Man" while "Human Condition", a meditation on our innate frailties, finds her clearing out her emotional closet with bracing candour. Tellingly, this once determinedly edgy New York art-punk is no longer afraid to relax and stretch out: three expansive tracks hurdle the six-minute mark, while on the jazzy "Kiss The Specifics", the album's standout track, she sounds like the ghost of Karen Carpenter. Wasser is an artist who has found her voice and The Deep Field is the record of her life.