Reviews

Hand Habits
Placeholder

(Saddle Creek)

8/10

Wildfires rage across Southern California and Meg Duffy is situated perilously close to the oncoming blaze. It’s a region recently embraced as home by Duffy, who is perhaps most well regarded for occupying the role of sonic anchor and ever-adept lead guitarist for Kevin Morby’s band. It was this inclusion into Morby’s setup that not only prompted this geographical shift, but also provided the dawn of the Hand Habits project. Not long after came a debut album and ‘Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void)’ became the result of a self-produced, bedroom recording project.

On the follow-up, there exists an undeniable atmosphere of uncertainty, no doubt spurred on by the impending inferno that provides the anxiety-ridden and intrinsically cautious backdrop to the record. On the surface, ‘Placeholder’, is a directly compassionate and earnest listen, produced in part by the straightforward exposition of latent lyrical themes around forgiveness, fragility and suffering but also in the warm harmonies, skilled guitar work and a newly reinforced studio setup.

Delving a little deeper, ‘Placeholder’ is full of the kind of morbid introspections one might expect to find as a result of close proximity to natural disaster. Space for the listener to consider destruction, rebirth, and mortality are effortlessly carved out with graceful instrumentation and instinctual songcraft. This alongside subtle additions of resolute musical arrangements elevate the album beyond its alt-folk contemporaries and begins to present the musical nous becoming ever more synonymous with Meg Duffy and Hand Habits.

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