Hand Habits: Fun House (Album Review)

“Tonight I put on a song you used to shoot me in / Another Saturday night I’m all dressed in blue,” confesses Meg Duffy in the opening lines of “More Than Love”, the track flagship of the new Hand Habits. album Fun house. Setting the scene with a direct callback to Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” – or perhaps the 1990 version of Emmylou Harris – the line is a lively dress-up for the rest of the album, a meditative offering from emotional clarity now via Ruisseau de la Selle.

Duffy, whose roots originally lie as a collaborator with Sylvan Esso and touring guitarist for roots-indie musician Kevin Morby, has garnered praise for vulnerable lyrics like these, in which heartbreak and pain are often intertwined with a particular sense of maturity and forgiveness. -selected folk instrumentation. In their latest EP, dirt, for example, “July 4th,” is a devastating ode to a volatile dynamic in which a loved one causes pain by being unable to deal with their anxieties. Duffy notes that this theme of their music is influenced by how “the lines between romance and friendship are often blurred” in same-sex relationships, resulting in a need to approach all connections with a general sense of meaning. ’empathy.

Fun house redirects this model exam to the self. Inspired by the sudden calm of his forties and Duffy’s emotional calculation process in therapy, there is a new sense of belonging through the lyrics that emphasizes Duffy’s agency and needs, in addition to those of other people involved in the complex dynamics of which they sing. Directly after remembering those sweet songs quoting nothings on “More Than Love”, Duffy sings, “I Needed More Than That”. Meanwhile, in “Just to Hear You,” they state, “I know a lot better now” after detailing the ways they yearned for a previous partner’s connection. Yet the empathy that characterizes their lyrical storytelling remains intact. On “Clean Air,” Duffy has a compelling awareness of the complexity of an emotional dynamic, acknowledging “I can’t ask you that anymore”.

Fun house is also more sonically adventurous than Duffy’s previous work. Produced by Sasami Ashworth (SASAMI) and conceived by Kyle Thomas of King Tuff, the album swings between the indie folk typical of Hand Habits’ previous discography in “Graves” and “False Start” to a dreamy synthpop on “Aquamarine”. Neil Young’s 1970s roots-rock groove, which Duffy recently picked up with a version of “I Believe in You” on dirt, also makes an appearance on “Gold / Rust” and “Concrete & Feathers”.

“I think that also coincides with my trans identity, because a big part of this journey for me has been to really fight against what I’m not allowed to be,” Duffy says of pushing those boundaries. artistic. Queer art is its own fascinating stream through Fun house. Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius is featured on “No Difference” and “Just to Hear You,” and the album’s lyrics feature sultry queer imagery like “Aquamarine’s” “a little tidal pool that comes together in your midsection for me to drink “and” The Answer’s “” my body, a question hanging over her tongue.

The naked vulnerability and stylistic experimentation of Fun house are also on display in the recent clip for “Clean Air,” which takes a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” style performance frame and lays the tender, plaintive track over it. Although at first glance dissonant with the understated tone of “Clean Air”, Duffy’s physical and sweaty performance, and the struggling and struggling crowd underscore the emotional turbulence at the heart of the song.

Overall, Hand Habits innovates musically and thematically on Fun house, elevating their indie-folk sound and their recurring themes of vulnerability and emotional awareness to result in a more fluid, more introspective and experimental work. Accomplishing this growth while continuing to showcase Duffy’s talents as a songwriter and musician, the album is an exhilarating sequel to both reserved space and dirt and a signal of the excellent work that will certainly come in the future of the Hand Habits project.

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