Hand Habits: dirt EP (Saddle Creek) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, March 8th, 2021  

Hand Habits

dirt EP

Saddle Creek

Feb 19, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


At the risk of turning the pandemic into a competition, it would appear that Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy has been living out their best quarantine life. Assuming success is measured in the number of collaborations that have ensued over the past year. After wrapping a well timed European and Australasian tour, Duffy made it back home for a late night TV slot with Perfume Genius; played guitar on Jess Williamson’s understated best song of the lockdown, “Pictures of Flowers;” appeared on Ryan Hemsworth’s Quarter-Life Crisis project; and teased their own new music with Sasami Ashworth at the production helm. Though a third album has been referenced, here we receive the two song dirt EP with a digital only remix from 2019’s placeholder appended for good measure.

The opening song, “4th of july,” reveals that Duffy is up for exploring a more, forgive the pun, explosive sound. The Ashworth produced track starts with a dolorous acoustic strum, but a Beatles-esque bridge gives way to a multi-staged ending. The song has its protagonist on ever shifting sands brought on by earthquakes and fireworks that bring on the track’s best image:  “couldn’t get those swinging lights out of your mind.” 

The release’s other track is a cover of “I Believe In You,” one of Neil Young’s most fragile compositions. With a flanged electric guitar backing, Duffy ups the noise quotient revealing the uncertainty at the core of the song. Backing vocals—including the track’s producer, King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas—echo Young’s own voice deep down in the mix.  

The bonus track, a Katie Dey remix of placeholder’s “what’s the use,” amplifies the lyrics by modulating Duffy’s vocal track through numerous peaks and valleys over what sounds like pounded piano strings. What dirt lacks in running time and song count, it makes up for in substance. No matter how delicate Duffy’s solo work to date has been, there was always a gently pulsed engine pushing things forward. Dirt brings that energy to the surface and leaves the listener wondering whether these didn’t fit in with Duffy’s next long form release or are pointing towards new ground. (www.handhabits.band)

Author rating: 7/10

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