For years, Meg Duffy made their bones in the music world by working as a studio guitarist and then playing in Kevin Morby’s band. Their move from New York City prompted the beginning of Hand Habits, which began as a solo project and transformed into a fully fledged band. Their debut, Wildly Idle, which was recorded and produced by Duffy in their bedroom, made a name for the group in 2017. Widly Idle showcased a variety of modern folk songs that were pensive and lush with keen observation, placing Duffy alongside contemporaries such as Big Thief and Angel Olson.
Hand Habits’ sophomore album, placeholder, is slated for release on March 1st. Duffy noted in a press release that where Wildly Idle meanders, placeholder is “less of a submerged landscape and more a concise series of thoughts.” Recorded in Justin Vernon’s Wisconsin studio, placeholder takes on a superior sonic quality bringing new vigor to Duffy’s sweet and somber vocals while also filling out the band’s flourishing sound.
Leading up to the album’s full release, Hand Habits has put out three singles: “placeholder,” “can’t calm down,” and most recently, “what lovers do.” Each of these songs is delicately crafted and full of life. The band’s increased attention to detail allows each track to build tension throughout with carefully placed instrumentation. A very talented guitarist themself, Duffy sprinkles sharp and dissonant leads across the songs; the riffs aren’t in your face, but they perfectly fit in the sonic landscape of each song.
On “what lovers do,” Duffy recounts a tumultuous romance where their lover’s hands are, “halfway into the fire of her desire,” over gentle acoustic strums and celestial synths. The tight rhythm section holds the head–nodder of a track together while Duffy delivers passionate vocal takes over each chorus. It’s an reflective moment in which, “cards are on the table but I can see right through,” as Duffy finds themself between emotions; they know that this relationship is broken, but there’s no decision made to abandon it. After all, Duffy is a lyricist drawn to the in–between.
Take a listen to Hand Habits latest single “what lovers do” and keep your eyes peeled for placeholder being released on March 1st via Saddle Creek Records.