Meg Duffy has built a reputation as your favorite guitar player’s favorite guitar player. Kevin Morby, William Tyler and The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel have all recruited Duffy for session work or touring ensembles. Duffy is a chameleon in that way, able to integrate themselves into another artist’s work seamlessly. As skilled as a guitarist as Duffy is, the playing is always in service of the song. That versatility—both as a guitarist and as a singer-songwriter—is part of what makes Fun House, Duffy’s third album as Hand Habits, such a compelling listen. After a muted intro, “More Than Love” explodes like a kaleidoscope of sonic colors—before Duffy rips a classic rock-inspired solo. That last part may be intentional since they actually quote the Boss in the opening stanza: “Tonight I put on the song/ you used to pull me in/ ‘Another Saturday night, I’m all dressed up in blue’/ for you, for you.” Fans of Hand Habits’ 2019 album Placeholder will notice Duffy’s lyrics are more direct and personal here. Many of these songs began as simple folk songs, but producer Sasami Ashworth pushed Duffy to explore new avenues. “Graves,” a somber acoustic guitar and piano ballad, offers a glimpse at where Fun House began. “Don’t go digging up graves,” they sing, “why can’t you just let it lay?” The airy folk pop of “False Start” and “No Difference” both sound like they could be from another one of Duffy’s collaborators, Weyes Blood. On “Concrete & Feathers,” Duffy gives their guitar a workout, Neil Young and Crazy Horse-style. Duffy also tours in the Perfume Genius live band and Mike Hadreas shows up to lend his vocals to “Just to Hear You,” a vibe-y breakup song that features some subtly hypnotizing fretwork—a reminder that Duffy’s otherworldly chops are still Hand Habits’ secret weapon.
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