The title of Ana Egge’s new album is perfect, for it conveys not only intimacy but also ambivalence, uncertainty, and anger, themes that haunt the dreamy sonic landscapes of every song on the album.
Flowing over Anh Phung’s percussive flute, which evokes the sound of a soul shuffling through yet another day of pain and resignation, the languorous vocals of “You Hurt Me” mimic the tentativeness that accompanies the end of a relationship. The sing-song “You moved I stayed you worked I played” of the first verse conveys the singer’s ambivalence about either accepting blame or directing it at her former lover. The bright notes of Jon Cowherd’s Rhodes throw open the door to the pulsating early ‘70s soul blues of “Heartbroken Kind,” sort of like Chi Coltrane meets Karla Bonoff and Nicolette Larson, with a King Curtis-like sax solo by Sonny Step on the instrumental bridge. The dreamy chamber folk ballad “We Let the Devil” strolls almost indolently through the nightmarish atmosphere of a broken relationship, evoking the displaced emotions that come with heartbreak, the desire for witnessing the other’s hurt, and the longing to be one: “Wanna break your heart so we can grieve/I’ll cry for you you cry for me.” The Memphis soul stirrer “Wait a Minute,” the album’s opening track, is alone worth the price of the album. With its joyful music, the song asks us to slow down, listen to one another, while at the same time it acknowledges how difficult it is for us to move from our deeply-held views on politics or even love. The Steely Dan-like “Want Your Attention” rides high with its party song vibe, only to end with a smile and an unexpected twist. If Lesley Gore’s anthems of triumph over loss were slowed to dirge-like, melancholic mediations, we’d have “Sorry,” another song that lives astride the ambivalence of breakup: “You’re not sorry for your weakness I’m not sorry for the end/I’m sorry for the little heart I placed into your hands/You’re sorry I’m not sorry but I know I truly am.”
Between Us offers a glimpse of Egge’s lyrical songwriting, her brilliant ability to match the melody and musical vibe to the lyrics, and her soulful singing that veers from jazz and pop to soul and folk.
Between Us is available HERE.