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Music

California Sounds: Hear new recommended L.A. music from Nick Waterhouse and Hand Habits

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Meg Duffy, who records as Hand Habits
(Jacob Boll)

Nick Waterhouse, “Wreck the Rod” video (Innovative Leisure). In the new clip from his forthcoming album, a noticeably sweaty, chubby and agitated Waterhouse sits aside a late-night talk show host played by actor/taco man Danny Trejo. Filtered with a VHS sheen to suggest the 1970s, the video is meant to seem archival, and depicts a velvet-tux-wearing Waterhouse as a past-his-prime, fat Elvis-style lounge singer. After insultingly asking Waterhouse about those who “throw around the word ‘has-been’ and ‘hack’ a lot,” Trejo cuts to the chase: “What happened in Vegas?”

“I’m done. That’s it. This interview is over,” Waterhouse replies.

It’s a ruse. Nothing happened in Vegas. The real-life singer isn’t pear-shaped and doesn’t wear a tuxedo shirt tucked into pants that are belted above his belly. Los Angeles native Waterhouse is serving a send-up to tell-all talk show culture. The song, however, is no joke, and despite Trejo’s description of it as, “uhh, an oldie,” it’s a fresh, if dusty-sounding, new song.

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That’s a realm Waterhouse knows well. His previous three records aimed at a sweet spot connecting late 1950s rockabilly, 1960s R&B and contemporary, danceable garage rock. His self-titled fourth, which arrives March 8, further taps that seemingly indestructible vault of sound.

Hand Habits,Placeholder,” (Saddle Creek). For the singer, songwriter and expert guitarist Meg Duffy’s second album as Hand Habits, the New York transplant settled into a sonically rich studio environment and across a dozen songs laid to tape just as many pure gems.

Best known as guitarist for Kevin Morby’s touring band, Duffy, who asks to be identified using gender-neutral pronouns, made their first album in a bedroom studio but headed to Bon Iver’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wis., to record much of “Placeholder,” then returned to Los Angeles to lay down vocals.

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What arrives is a virtually seamless country rock album, with verses moving fluidly into choruses that travel unimpeded across sparkling, architecturally sophisticated bridges.

Duffy said that much of “Placeholder,” which comes out Friday, was written during a particularly ferocious wildfire season, and that essence inhabits every fiber. A notable guitarist whose work on pedal steel and amplified acoustic guitars drift through much of the album, Duffy doesn’t leave a single loose thread on “Placeholder.” Highly recommended.

More California Sounds: New songs from Jenny Lewis, Ozomatli featuring Chali 2na and Cut Chemist, and Tim Heidecker »

More California Sounds: New music from Neil Hamburger, Claude Fontaine and the Long Ryders »

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: randall.roberts@latimes.com.


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