As a session musician, Joan Wasser has played violin with such diverse acts as Scissor Sisters, Sparklehorse, and Medeski Martin & Wood. On her second solo album as a singer-songwriter, she pares down the theatricality found on her debut, Real Life, and swaps it for spare piano-and-voice melancholia. Wasser occasionally enters Regina Spektor and Tori Amos territory, but she's a more haunting and haunted songwriter (and not nearly as kooky). She breaks down to a whisper in the opening "Honor Wishes" and loads "Holiday"'s avant-pop with random noise blasts. But most of To Survive is introspective and solemn, even during the bouncy jazz-pop moments of "Magpies" and "To Be Loved."
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