Joan Wasser is now six albums deep into her solo career and she continues to refine and explore her polymorphous sound that takes in soul, jazz and pop music.
If her last album, The Classic, felt like a slight misstep, Damned Devotion is a return to what Wasser does best – blending mood and atmosphere with classic soul, contemporary R&B and modern technology. There’s an exhilarating sense of both space and intimacy in Wasser’s songs, impressively enhanced by the production of Thomas Bartlett and Parker Kindred. Swelling synths, fractured electronic beats are the backdrop to Valid Jagger, Rely On sounds like a take on the industrial urban soul of Portishead, while Talk About It Later is futuristic Curtis Mayfield with both dark rock and gospel undertones.
“I start to wonder what about my life I can’t settle on” she sings on closer I Don’t Mind. It sums up the questioning nature of many of her lyrics as Wasser explores both the self and the emotional obstacle course of modern life. The highlight comes with the single Tell Me – a heavy yet sweet, neo-soul groove with a perfectly weighted and irresistible hook of a chorus. Damned Devotion is grounded in traditional musical forms yet it blossoms with sonic experimentation and emotional depth.