Hand Habits – Dirt EP Review

Saddle Creek – 2021

Meg Duffy certainly has many acclaims under their belt, aside from the Hand Habits solo project they’ve recorded with the likes of The War On Drugs, Weyes Blood and William Tyler, also making up a part of Kevin Morby’s live band. And although this EP may be only two tracks, or three if you count the digital exclusive remix of “What’s The Use” from their sophomore album Placeholder, they pack so much vibrancy within this small amount of space that this is certainly another accolade they can hang on their already bountiful mantle of achievements.

“4th of july” opens with Duffy’s signature stripped back feel, over dissonant chords that gently build with fluttering vocal layers and tambourines until the huge cacophony of pounding drums and soaring harmonies takes the track to an incredible height of emotional intensity. All whilst Duffy’s laidback vocals ooze with a natural cool that invites you in and lets you stay for the whole journey. “But don’t cry, demolition baby, Always blowin’ it up, And getting so stuck, Both hands in the dirt” they sing on the emphatic chorus and bathe in the notion persistence. No matter the challenges they face, and the chaos that may surround them, Duffy is assuring the listener that if you work on it, with both hands in the dirt, you’ll get there.

When it comes to covering Neil Young, there always has to be an aspect of respect given to the original recordings, not to sound exactly the same, but also a touch of innovation that allows a cover to become unique. Thankfully Duffy’s cover of “I Believe In You” from Young’s critically acclaimed 1970 album After The Gold Rush has both of those aspects in bounds. Produced by roommate Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) the cover has a certain air of nostalgia coated over the sound. Whether it be from the slow chugging grit infused guitar, or the distant sparkle of piano interludes this track feels both fresh and yet comfortably reminiscent. Surrounded by Duffy’s warming doubled vocals, the track moves from strength to strength as new distant sounds and flourishes are introduced.

Then the remix of “what’s the use” brings a new sense of surrealness to Hand Habit’s sound that wouldn’t be found on any of their previous works, yet still feels in character. Through glitchy vocal manipulation and driving beats this sound is at times weird and at other times alluring. From it’s indie folk roots to almost hyper-pop new form it serves as both a showcase of Duffy’s natural vocal flair and Katie Day’s ability for sonic manipulation.

This EP is significantly shorter than anything else in the Hand Habits catalogue, but that doesn’t mean it’s any part less enjoyable. Rather standing as an insight into where Duffy might be taking the project next, and what has lead us along this gratifying journey so far. If you’re looking for a 10 minute way to make your day better, this is certainly it.

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