Halfway through Ana Egge’s 11th record, Is It the Kiss, on the standout track “Hurt a Little,” she gives listeners some touching words of encouragement: “Sometimes the work will be hard if it’s ever gonna work at all.”
The balance between the good and the bad that Egge strikes in that line is found throughout this album. Egge and the characters she creates swing with life’s ups and downs and, because of the rich details she puts into each story, we go along for the ride: Peek from side stage at the Nudie-suit wearing “Cocaine Cowboys” as they beguile their audience; witness the violent tragedy within “Teacake and Janey”; fall terrifyingly in love on “Stay the Night.”
Despite the emotional rollercoaster of Egge’s narratives, there’s a deep ease to the soundscape of Is It the Kiss. It’s an ease that’s equivalent to Sunday morning, or every single day of the summer when you are a kid. Leading the way is Egge’s voice, which is captivatingly sonorous except on the smoky “Oh My My,” where, seemingly overcome with lust, she gasps for air with brilliant results.
The album’s instrumentals radiate with warmth and are illuminated by subtle details like the wind and brass sections arranged by Alec Spiegelman (Cuddle Magic) and the punchy electric guitar work of Big Thief’s Buck Meek. “What Could Be” has an affable groove to it that’s underscored by soft interjections of entwined wind and brass instruments. This knockout combo is used again on “Rise Above,” a track that feels anthemic amid this climate of hate: “Don’t fall for anyone’s reasons to hate someone. We will rise above,” Egge repeats.
As Egge explains, Is It the Kiss was born from feeling “an uneasiness and a deeper need for connection.” Consequently, it’s an album that helps to combat fears and serves as a reminder that with the bad comes the good and to hold onto your loved ones as you swing.