Joan as Police Woman / Benjamin Lazar Davis

Let It Be You

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On Let It Be You, Joan as Police Woman's Joan Wasser and Brooklyn musician Benjamin Lazar Davis -- who has worked with artists including Okkervil River, Cuddle Magic, Kimbra, and Luke Temple -- explore and update their love of African music. Separately, Wasser worked on Damon Albarn's Africa Express project in Ethiopia, while Davis traveled to West Africa as part of his studies of the region's traditional music at the New England Conservatory. Together, they draw on Central African Pygmy music's lively ostinatos -- musical motifs that repeat throughout a work -- incorporating them into breezy electro-pop with an insistent sensuality. The former single "Broke Me in Two" is still one of the finest examples of their approach, with a tart, overdriven keyboard melody providing the backbone for Wasser's flowing vocals. Elsewhere, it's easy to imagine the title track's chiming motif played on a thumb piano instead of a synth. While Let It Be You has more than a little of the easy soulfulness of Joan as Police Woman's albums, especially on luminous tracks such as "Satellite" and "Violent Dove," it sounds less studied. The crisp arrangements provide just the right contrast to Wasser's ecstatic upper range and smoky lower tones, both of which are showcased beautifully on "Magic Lamp." Along with her seemingly effortless charisma, Wasser's unique expressions of love and lust are just as vivid here as they are on her previous work: On "Easy Money," she purrs "You got me jumpin' to your high hat … Man, you got me rapturous" over synths that evoke '70s funk and '90s West Coast rap. When a vocalist as talented as Wasser is involved in a project, it's tempting to want her to sing on every track, but Davis holds his own on "Overloaded"'s surprisingly polished pop and "Motorway"'s mellow groove. From start to finish, Let It Be You is a collection of appealingly loose, lush songs full of creativity.

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