The Virtues of Indolence
It’s hard work being lazy. Life without a purpose or reason can be a drag. If you’re gonna do nothing, do nothing right. That’s the lesson of Ana Egge’s latest album, a 30-minute tribute to Lazy Days.
Egge covers 10-fairly unknown odes to indolence originally recorded by a roster of wonderful and diverse artists: The Kinks, Stephen Stills, Arcade Fire, Gene Autry, Ron Sexsmith, Belle and Sebastian, Sandy Denny, Zombies, Le Tigre, and Harry Nillson. This list indicates the depth and breadth of the Brooklyn/Texas musician’s ambitions and suggests that being lazy ain’t easy.
Despite the difference in styles of the original material, Egge makes them her own through her distinctively laid-back approach. She drawls out the lyrics like a yawn, but the kind that settles in your soul like a sigh. Egge knows that lethargy itself is a symptom of sensual passion. One delights in the ability to take it easy.
That’s an important point to make in these hectic times of presidential politics, world conflicts, and environmental degradation. Egge implicitly tells the listener to slow down. She uses the words of others, but the point is the same. Life is short. Relax. Appreciate the here and now.
You don’t have to be a Zen Buddhist to know how to breathe. Egge gives a master class on the process on such tunes like Belle and Sebastian’s “Summer Wastin’” and Sandy Denny’s “Crazy Lady Blues” that are imbued with the deep warmth of just being. The songs work as mantras for letting go of one’s thoughts and inducing meditation.
Some songs, like the Zombies’ “I Could Spend the Day”, promise of more active search for nothing. The Arcade Fire’s “In the Backseat” takes the perspective of the passenger who observes the world without participating in a way that promises the joys of the open road. What’s better than letting a trusted friend do the driving? Just watch the view outside the window and hang loose. In all selections, Egge’s delight in her chosen mode of laziness comes across clearly.
Let’s face it. Lazy people are rebels. They make terrible slaves, lousy students to indoctrinate, bad spouses to shape after marriage, etc. They can be pains in the butt to everybody but themselves. What some people consider lazy others may call independent.
And they can make marvelous lovers, those individuals that take things easy and slow. That’s the kind of person Egge aspires to, in her own dawdling way.
She backs up her singing with some nimble guitar picking. The production makes the instrumentation on the record seem sparse, but always in a big way. Whether it’s Egge’s letting her strings reverberate or its the work of guest musicians like Anton Fier (Golden Palominos) Tony Scherr (Willie Nelson), Jane Scarpantoni (R.E.M.) and Jason Mercer (Ron Sexsmith), the music forms a sonic landscape that’s cinematic in its grand scope. It creates the illusion of big distances in an intimate setting.
This may just be a covers record, another tribute to something, but Egge transcends these limitations. She makes you want to spend all day in bed, waste time, or just spend the day in the sunshine. We’d all be better off if we listened to her.