Fun House, the third album by Hand Habits (aka Meg Duffy, who uses they/them pronouns), is undoubtedly their best to date. Though it seems something of an affront to subject Fun House's artistry to conventional measures or a stack ranking. Whether the album's title is tongue in cheek; a reference to living downstairs from Sasami Ashworth (SASAMI) and Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) (who each had a part in the making of the album); or a reference to the "hall of mirrors" approach that Duffy takes in examining their life is of less matter than the heartfelt approach and dazzling dynamics that the album contains.
The music video for "Clean Air," a single from Hand Habits' new album Fun House, unfolds like a magic trick. Meg Duffy, a guitarist and singer who made their name as an accompanist for Weyes Blood and the War on Drugs, ambles moodily on stage, clutching a microphone as if about to deliver a sermon. Then, as the strum of an acoustic guitar picks up, breezy and gentle, the audience explodes with energy.
Meg Duffy's latest outing under the Hand Habits moniker is a further kaleidoscopic insight into the mind of an accomplished musician with far more to offer the world beyond playing guitar for many of their US indie contemporaries. 'Fun House' sees Duffy traverse multiple sonic terrains, often in the spaces of a single song, as they lean on everything from soaring heartland rock ('Concrete And Feathers'), thoughtful folk balladry ('Graves') to lo-fi, hook-laden dance pop (Aquamarine). A luscious record bursting with ideas, technical flourishes and unexpected turns - 'Fun House' is Duffy's greatest achievement yet.
Photo by Jacob Boll The paradox of Hand Habits' last full-length, 2019's much-loved placeholder, is that it achieves an atmosphere of total comfort by focusing purely on its own unease. No song captures this dynamic better than "Can't Calm Down," where Meg Duffy yearns for clarity on familial trauma. But as the verse swells over the ticking beat, the emotional catharsis it teases towards never manifests.