Posts Tagged ‘Hand Habits’

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Five artists cover Meg Duffy’s “placeholder” song, with all proceeds going toward the Amazon Conservation Association. Meg Duffy aka Hand Habits has announced the “Wldfire Covers” EP, which sees five artists cover Duffy’s placeholder song “wildfire.” The EP, which is led by Hand Habits’ original, features covers by Angel Olsen, Lomelda, Kacey Johansing, Tara Jane O’Neil and John Andrews & The Yawns.

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releases December 25th, 2019

Meg Duffy wrote “wildfire” during the California wildfires in 2017. In a statement, they said:

Being a touring musician eight months out of the year, you are exposed to a lot of varying degrees of climate change effects in a short period of time. From the gasoline that’s used to fuel touring vehicles, to the massive amount of plastic waste at the end of every show, to the carbon emissions released into the air by all the travel, it’s often not the most environmentally conscious career. I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to the efforts at work by the people at the Amazon Conservation Association for being dedicated to preserving such a vast and heartbreakingly crucial part of our ecosystem that has been threatened by wildfires, deforestation, and the effects of climate change. I believe that writing and performing music can be a healing force, used for good, and not always for capitalizing on emotions and commodifying a personality or lifestyle. People need to be able to relate to each other, in times of joy, and especially in times of sorrow or struggle. The Wildfire Compilation, in partnership with Bandcamp and Saddle Creek, will be donating all of its funds raised to the ACA in hopes to lend a helping hand to those on the front lines of fighting climate change in places that may seem inaccessible to those of us unable to travel at length. I chose five artists, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lomelda, John Andrews, Angel Olsen, and Kacey Johansing to interpret and cover my song “wildfire” that I wrote during the California Wildfires in 2017. All of these artists are dear friends and have all taught me a lot about the complexity of emotions in music.

You may have seen Meg Duffy in the past, shining on stage as Kevin Morby’s touring lead guitarist. But with Hand Habits, Duffy has shown their own polished arsenal as a songwriter and their sophomore record, placeholder, dropped today on Saddle Creek Records. Hand Habits’ music gives rise to calming evenings and humble wanderings of the mind. Duffy’s sweet melodies provide a solace for a troubled heart and a salve for a heavy conscious. The gently operatic “What Lovers Do” and the wonderfully reprised version of “Yr Heart” are notable doses of what Hand Habits doe’s best: provide sheer comfort through song.

Meg Duffy describes the songs on their second full-length release, and first for Saddle Creek, as their most direct to date, crafted with clear intention.  Instrumentally, Placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today. Placeholder is another entry in the Hand Habits songbook, but it’s also a valuable testament of our time.

Meg Duffy - Five Favorite Records

Los Angeles via upstate New York songwriter and guitarist Meg Duffy has been involved in many great indie rock records of the past decade. She has recorded guitar and slide guitar on The War On Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding, William Tyler’s Goes West, Weyes Blood’s Front Row Seat to Earth, and their former touring mate Kevin Morby’s City Music. But with Duffy’s solo vessel Hand Habits, the virtuosic guitarist steps away from the sidelines for their best work yet. On the just-released Placeholder, Duffy’s second album under the moniker, the patiently composed songs are filled with sharp emotional acuity, like on the title track, which looks back on a dissolved relationship, or the intimate and vulnerable

Hand Habits is Meg Duffy’s solo project assisted by a “continuous amoeba” of friends when performing live. She has spent the last few years touring in both Mega Bog and The Kevin Morby Band, and created Hand Habits as an outlet for her own interests and self-exploration. The result is a collection of droney tunes that languidly lumber to their conclusion with Meg’s soft, reassuring voice and sparse, echoing instrumental work.

Band Members
Keven Lareau – Bass
John Andrews – Drums and Backup Vocals
Meg Duffy – Guitar and Vocals

Session Tracklist
1. Flower Glass
2. The Book On How To Change
3. Actress
4. All The While

Meg Duffy’s music seems to exist in miniature, but it’s not for brevity or lack of complexity. Just the opposite, in fact: Recording as Hand Habits, Duffy pays scrupulous attention to detail in songs that function like intricate dioramas.

On Placeholder, the singer (who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns) contemplates the fragility of human relationships and the hard-to-stomach reality that many of the people, experiences and places we’ve loved are only stepping stones on a journey of self-discovery.

“A big aspect of my songwriting and the way I move through the world depends on my relationships with people,” Duffy writes in a statement about the album. “The songs on Placeholder are about accountability and forgiveness. I don’t fictionalize much.”

After a string of bedroom demos made their way to Bandcamp in the early 2010s, Duffy became a fixture on a burgeoning Hudson Valley DIY scene alongside acts like Florist and Bellows. (Duffy was raised in Albany and attended college in Schenectady.) With momentum building, they chose to place Hand Habits on hold, leaving the Northeast for Los Angeles to play guitar with songwriter Kevin Morby’s live band. After several years of touring, Duffy signed to indie label Woodsist and, in 2017, released Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)a tender, captivating solo debut.

A gorgeous progression from Wildly Idle, Placeholder captures Duffy’s transfixing intimacy in elevated form. While their earlier work was entirely self-produced, Placeholder was recorded at Justin Vernon’s Wisconsin studio. Duffy’s vocals find new confidence amid gentle guitar strumming and warbling pedal steel, blending into a haze of dreamlike Americana. These songs evoke waves of warm, pop-driven nostalgia, with equal doses of melancholy and optimism.

The album’s title track captures the musings of someone scorned but not dejected. Duffy displays an adept ability to see their own duplicity, never resolving to pin blame on someone else: “Oh, but I was just a placeholder / A lesson to be learned / Oh, but now you’re just a placeholder / For someone wasting time.”

In “yr heart [reprise],” Duffy sings of a phone call to a distant lover with an almost Patsy Cline-like lilt: “And you are far but not that far / I can feel you push your fingers / Through the fabric of all my thoughts.”

The record’s furthest sonic wandering point arrives in a minute-long brass interlude in “the book on how to change part II.” Duffy leaves us with a proverb that doubles as a euphoric moment of clarity: “The book on how to change / Wasn’t written in one day / The book on how to change / Never taught me anything.”

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Meg Duffy of Hand Habits wrote their forthcoming record as wildfires burned through Southern California. For an album about love and relationships, it’s a fitting setting; there’s something inherently destructive in making space within yourself to bring someone else in. the new track is premiering “What Lovers Do,” the newest single from Placeholder ( via Saddle Creek Records) and a lulling, frank revelation on the complexities of desire.

Over gentle guitar, Duffy muses about the attraction between lovers, describing it as “halfway with your hands into the fire of my desire.” As the song plays out, it’s clear the relationship isn’t a smooth one, and feels more like a series of games. But the draw between the two continues to feel magnetic, and Duffy nonetheless, sounds sweet and warm in the retelling.

“Hesitation, revelation, and repetition-aspects of the story you can identify easily, and must be the witness and the participant,” Duffy writes via email. “When the shame baton gets passed back and forth between parties, who is the fool? I could never claim to have a complete understanding.”

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We’re honored to premiere the video for the achingly beautiful and poignant new single from Kevin Morby’s guitarist  Meg Duffy, aka Hand Habits, taken from their stellar forthcoming LP “Placeholder”, coming soon on Saddle Creek Records. Directed + edited by Vanessa Haddad, the vid stars Meg as a vampire who ponders the painfully real possibility that we’re all cursed with certain deep-seated familial patterns that we’ll never be able to shake.

Meg has never had a problem flooring us with devastating lyrical turns of phrase (the opening line from Hand Habits’ debut LP immediately comes to mind), and the profoundly articulated and relatable conceit at the center of “Can’t Calm Down”  “what if I can’t calm down and i don’t have that in my bloodline?” — is a heartbreaking reflection on what Meg refers to as “ancestral damage”:

“this song took the longest lyrically for me to finish. i started it about 3 years ago and kept it in progress throughout different cycles of feeling. ‘ancestral damage’ and learned behaviors and conditioning to react/hold and place certain emotions are patterns i’m interested in taking part and understanding better. what can one do with rage? with pain? with sadness? and is it is possible to learn how to wipe away completely the knee jerk reactions to situations that are buried deep in one’s dna? and the role models that taught us how to behave, whether directly or residually…are they the ones who should be held responsible or is memory partially to blame?”

Hand Habits is the project of Meg Duffy, an upstate New York-raised, LA-based musician who has collaborated with the likes of Kevin Morby, Mega Bog, and Weyes Blood.

Duffy’s musical talents have made her an in-demand studio and tour musician, but after several years of working with others on their projects, she stepped out on her own in February, 2017 with the release of Hand Habits debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) via Woodsist Records .

The record’s layered guitars and hushed, lightly-psychedelic atmospheres quickly captured attention throughout the indie music world including that of Robb Nansel at Saddle Creek Records. This summer, he invited Hand Habits to participate in the label’s Document Series , a celebration of music communities around the country that features unreleased singles from independent artists along with a curated zine about their local music scene.

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Meg Duffy, who records as Hand Habits, is a breath of fresh air. On her gorgeously affecting debut album on Woodsist LP “Wildly Idle Humble Before The Void” , Duffy channels her Piscean ways into a collection of wonderful pop songs that float through the ambience and reward the time you spend with them. Meg Duffy hasn’t stopped moving, working, or growing since she left her quiet childhood home in upstate New York. You can find her in the back of the van reading a book, quietly warming up backstage with some guitar workouts, or waiting tables at a neighborhood pizzeria. Though Meg didn’t pick up the instrument until she was seventeen years old, her intuitive, naturalistic musicality and commitment to the craft of guitar playing have made an in demand collaborator and guitarist for countless indie acts (Kevin Morby, Mega Bog, Weyes Blood).

Meg’s LP debut Wildy Idle (Humble Before the Void) (Woodsist Records 2017) ​is many things at once. The record is a collection of songs written amidst the constant motion of touring, recording, and working part-time jobs; recorded at home in North East L.A between other commitments, around the sounds of roommates cooking breakfast, and dogs pattering though an old craftsman house. Layered with Duffy’s signature extended guitar techniques, Hand Habits is playing five SXSW shows this year:

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Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop’s fourth proper solo LP and first for Sub Pop is entitled “Memories Are Now”, a reference to the concept of seizing the day. With producer Blake Mills the album encompasses much of the range of her previous output, which routinely challenged the boundaries of indie rock and folk, encouraging a label more along the lines of unconventional singer/songwriter. It follows her excellent likewise free-spirited but more rustic duet album with Iron and Wire’s Sam Beam “Love Letter For Fire” by less than a year, and any new fans from that collaboration may well delight in its expressiveness right alongside established fans. The empowering title track, which opens the album, is spare yet pointed. Accompanied only by a pulsing bassline, tambourine, and Hoop’s own backing vocals, it plays like an offbeat anthem for the newly self-reliant (“Clear the way/I’m coming through/No matter what you say”). The whole record, in fact, is injected with a heavy dose of gumption and irreverence, a spirit that, deliberate or not, seems timely in the sociopolitical climate of early 2017. Speaking of sociopolitical, the playful “Simon Says” takes on mindless consumerism with campfire immediacy and a twisted twang (“When you don’t pick the words you choose/Involuntarily advertising for their enterprise”). Meanwhile, “Songs of Old” is a folky chamber piece with arguably the album’s best example of Hoop’s distinctive way around a melody or three within a single, haunting tune. Efficient arrangements mark this track and the rest, so much so that when “Unsaid” arrives with electric guitar riffs, more expansive percussion, and poly-rhythms, it hits like a prism.  “Memories Are Now” is exquisite-sounding while it contends with a songwriter who not only has a few things to get off her chest, but seems to make a call to action. With lyrics that reject “that old device called fear,” some will find the inspiration to be catching.

Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)

Known in certain circles for backing indie singer/songwriter Kevin Morby on his recent tour, guitarist Meg Duffy steps into the spotlight all on her own with “Wildly Idle” (Humble Before The World) , It’s her full-length debut as the band “Hand Habits” . A true bedroom project  or living room project, to be literal, the album was written, performed, recorded, and produced by Meg Duffy. The intimate set takes listeners behind closed doors with lyrics that refer to bathroom sinks and late-night invites. Frequent double-tracking makes Duffy’s melodic but conversational vocal style seem even more lost in thought past bedtime. Meanwhile, her floaty, psych-tinged guitar pop swirls into corners and wraps back around headphones. Tempos are ambling on tracks such as “Flower Glass” (“When I hold you like a flower/Hold you like an hourglass”), a melancholy reflection that, even without the suggestion of the title, sounds like a musical representation of stained glass. Sustained chords, mixed low, provide the glue for layered harmonic guitars that unroll one note at a time in irregular rhythms. Later, the whispered count-off to “Sun Beholds Me” leaves ample time to anticipate the next beat. Even a relatively brighter, brisker tune like “Nite Life” has the leisurely twang of slide guitar, spacy effects, and airy vocals. Three brief “scenes” are spread throughout the track list: “Great LA,” “Cowboy,” and “Time Hole.” Incorporating samples, each one is an atmospheric exercise in texture that relinquishes form, only reinforcing the dreamy, drifting feel of the album.

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Dropping Bombs On The Sun” is the final and third of 3 singles from the forthcoming album “Don’t Get Lost” to be released in February 2017. The first track Dropping Bombs On The Sun  features vocals by longtime collaborator Tess Parks, this track gives an idea of the changing rhythms of the Brian Jonestown Massacre for the new album. Of a mellow flow of strings and keyboards, with smoky vocals provided by Tess Parks. Geldenes Herz Menz features Pete Fraser (The Pogues .New Young Pony Club) on saxophone , both Dan Alliare (drums and Ricky Maymi (guitar) from the Brian Jonestown Massacre play on both tracks.

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“Caught In Still Life” is the debut album release from London band Vaults. Whilst not yet a household name the band have been quietly building momentum since signing to Virgin EMI in 2013. The album contains two songs which are very well known; One Last Night featured on the soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey and went to No.1 on iTunes in 20 countries. Secondly comes the bands beautiful version of Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” as featured in this year’s much anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad. The TV ad was viewed 7 million times in the first 24 hours. Also featured on the album are Cry No More and Premonitions, both of which featured heavily in the Channel 4 drama Glue. For fans of Kate Bush, Florence, London Grammar and Chvrches.

A Pink Sunset for No One

“A Pink Sunset For No One” is the follow-up to “Fantastic Planet” , the 2015 album from guitarist/filmmaker Sarah Lipstates solo project Noveller. While the album contains all of the hallmarks of Lipstate’s cinematic sound, such as gently drifting waves of droning guitars and slightly melancholy atmospheres, there seems to be more definition to her playing this time around, in some aspects.

She hasn’t exactly started writing pop songs, but at times there’s a bit more of a propulsion to her compositions, and the melodies feel more outlined than before. It’s hard to tell exactly what instruments or effects pedals she’s using, since the liner notes don’t reveal any of this information, but there are moments that sound like organs, and others that seem like sampled woodwinds (on closing track “Emergence”). On “Rituals,” there are even shades of vocals peeking out from the detached but swinging rhythm and post-punk-influenced chords. The album’s title track starts calmly, with chiming notes, before louder guitars burst out. While not quite as harshly distorted as some earlier of Novellers works like Red Rainbows, the album demonstrates that Lipstate is still masterful at applying heavier guitar effects at exactly the right moments, elevating the lush, dreamy atmospheres to an exciting next level. Standout track “Trails and Trials” does this as well, and her guitar playing sounds particularly close to early His Name Is Alive on this one. Without getting too gloomy, She creates haunted, mysterious atmospheres on tracks such as “Corridors,” which could easily be the theme to the next big horror or sci-fi series. With this her eighth proper solo album as Noveller,  Lipstate continues to push her otherworldly sound in fascinating new directions.

Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Is Chuck Prophet a storyteller who just happens to be a great musician? Or is he a talented songwriter and guitarist who also has a real gift for spinning tales? On 2017’s Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, his 12th studio album, Prophet has managed to strike an ideal balance between the two sides, delivering a tuneful and engaging set that’s full of character sketches with a full complement of heart, soul, honesty, wit, and the details of a recognizable adult life. Prophet is capable of playfully imagining what it would be like to be the star of Nashville and Friday Night Lights (“If I Was Connie Britton”), then sharing the true story of a young man gunned down by the San Francisco police for no clear reason just a few tracks later (“Alex Nieto”). Both songs come off as smart, honest, and thoughtful despite their very different tone, and those adjectives apply to nearly every cut on this album. The current state of music is a recurring theme here, as evidenced by the title tune, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” “We Got Up and Played,” and “In the Mausoleum” (the latter an homage to the late Alan Vega of Suicide). But Prophet is just as interested in the lives of people in all sorts of trouble. A single mother and a gunman unexpectedly cross paths in “Killing Machine,” the author ponders the objects of his affection in “Your Skin” and “Coming Out in Code,” the peaks and valleys of romantic relationships are examined in “Open Up Your Heart,” and the Son of God’s consumer preferences get a rundown in “Jesus Was a Social Drinker.” Prophet and his studio band (including Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and co-producers Brad Jones and Matt Winegar on various instruments) give the melodies a rich, wide-ranging sound, and Prophet has rarely been better as a vocalist, finding the right tone on every track. Along with having one of the best titles of recent memory, “Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins” confirms that more than 25 years after making his solo debut, Chuck Prophet remains one of America’s strongest songwriters and recording artists, and he’s in great form here.

Outside (Briefly)

Froth have come a long way since their joke-band beginnings, weedy garage rock first album, and their initial foray into shoegaze on their 2014 album Bleak, which showed a great deal of promise with a batch of good songs and an impressively full sound. 2017’s Outside (Briefly) cashes in on that potential and ends up sounding like a great lost shoegaze/dream pop/experimental rock album of the early ’90s. Mixing the guitar overload of bands like My Bloody Valentine, the experimental nature of the Swirlies, and the hazy wistfulness of bands like Slowdive, Froth manage to ingest a ton of influences without sounding in thrall to any of them in particular. Lots of times on albums as stuck in the past as Outside (Briefly) is, the nostalgia factor weighs it down too much, the endless rounds of spot-the-influence make it impossible to actually enjoy the music as it happens, or the listener is so transported back in time that they’d rather listen to something old instead of the music Froth is making. None of that happens here. The band’s leader JooJoo Ashworth never succumbs to hero worship or pastiche. He and his cohorts (guitarist Nick Ventura, drummer Cameron Allen, and bassist Jeremy Katz) mix and match sounds, styles, and approaches like masters, never allowing the album to get predictable or obvious. Tracks like “Passing” defy the listener to pin down exactly what’s happening. It starts off as a raging shoegaze rocker that could have been lifted off an early Slumberland Records 45, then suddenly shifts into a droning Motorik jam where Ashworth and Ventura’s guitars noodle and dance like hippie girls at a Phish concert. After a few minutes of zoning out, the song crashes back into life before ending in a blast of feedback. It’s an exhilarating arrangement and serves notice that the band isn’t about to be pinned down. They can do slow noise rock ballads (“Petals”) that start off sparse and scattered sounding, with Ashworth’s fragile vocals up front, then finish in waves of synth strings and organ swirls or do simple blown-out shoegaze (“Romance Distractions”). They nail both abrasive JAMC-sleek rockers (“New Machine”) and fuzzy indie pop (“Sensitive Girl”) with equal aplomb. Synth pop drones (“Contact”) sound just as good as the songs that mix new wave melodies with noise pop guitars (“Show a Flower a Candle and It Grows”). Basically, everything Ashworth and crew try on Outside (Briefly) works a charm, sounding like the entire history of noisy indie pop wrapped up in one constantly surprising, effortlessly appealing ball of sound. Anyone who has a soft spot for sensitive pop songs played by loud guitars that are run through a ton of effects will want to check the album out. It may not make people forget the past mighty heroes of noise, but a few spins through Outside (Briefly) is enough to make room in the shoegaze/dream pop pantheon for Froth.

HAND HABITS DEMAND IT

“Wildly Idle”, the warmly enveloping new album from Meg Duffy, aka Hand Habits, is out tomorrow on Woodsist Records. Today, she shares the video for one of the record’s prettiest, most achingly wistful tracks, starring Duffy herself in a house with mysterious figures with fabric-draped faces, framed by soft-focus shots that lend the vid a gauzy, dream-like quality that suits the song nicely. Shot + directed by Christina Acevedo: