by Jamie Nagode
Meg Duffy of Hand Habits drops her anticipated debut album Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) in February 2017, after having spent a few short years touring with friends and signing with Woodsist records just months before. Recently, her following has expanded through sheer merit, gaining momentum playing guitar with other musicians on the up-and-up: Kevin Morby, Mega Bog, Weyes Blood, and Amber Arcades. In that time, she dreamt up a lush of an album on the road west. Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void) is certified bedroom pop, but you can listen anywhere these days, right? Listen to this album on a train going nowhere in particular. It blends beachy salt water through acrylic autumn leaves and leaves you wondering where the music is leading you. The album was written and recorded in upstate New York and later in Los Angeles, accompanying Duffy’s west-coast move. Its incredibly truthful, oozes dreamy imagery with soft, sad vibrations. She spills her heart on the coffee table and leaves it there to stain.
Flower Glass plays with layers on layers of reverberant guitar and soft overdubbed angelic voices. She whispers her love for someone close – a person deserving of love but doesn’t necessarily believe it. You can imagine how a song like that feels. I need a pick-me-up. Enter Actress, the clouds dissolve so slightly and welcome a more content level of melancholy. The beat picks up with eggshakers and a jazz kit, tries to make light of a gloomy affair – a breakup and a resolution. This is easily an album favorite; its genuine and meticulous with nothing left untouched. Following the single is one of three instrumental interludes, Greater La (Scene), using a keyboard and heavy distortion masking vocalized spoken word; these split up the album.
In Between is bass-driven with a little swing, though at a slow pace, like walking through a cemetery. Monotone vocals tell the story of a ghost, the paranormal feeling of living in between worlds and crossing over. The second single on the album, All the While is a spooky little take on submission and death, freedom and nihility. A groovy guitar break consumes the bridge, as if surf indie found itself lost in the middle of Oklahoma, just twisting in the wind, regardless of the rain. Demand It slows down and jazzes up some vocal woes, and Cowboy (Scene) closes the curtain on the second act with another interlude much like the first.
Sun Beholds Me, a heart-wrenching acoustic ballad with orchestrated atmospheric tones in the background, effortless and natural bleeds your heart out. As if you had empathy left over from the first side of this record, the melody shocks your system and exhausts the neurons that force you to relate. This phase is slightly remedied with the following song, Book on How to Change, a somewhat lighter number, contemplative and reminiscent, like looking out the window on a fast moving train. This is bookended with the last interlude, Time Hole (Scene).
A meditative song like Nite Life, with dissonant harmonies on every note and continuous looped guitar, frees you from carnal containment and lets you float through. The sound grows with reverb as if you’re submerged in deep water, listening to the sounds distort as they fall away into the abyss. Bad Boy and New Bones play on this distortion, adding more layers and harmonies to finally close out the record with serenity, leaving the body content and calm. For a first full length LP, Hand Habits certainly sets the table for something beautiful to come.