Bright Eyes special guests and Bridgers rumors; Mousetrap’s Patrick Buchanan; Hand Habits, Amber Carew leave Saddle Creek; who is Mary Ruth McLeay?…

Mary Ruth McLeay sideways.

by Tim McMahan,

A few random notes that are getting dusty in my in-box:

Yesterday Bright Eyes announced the “special guests” on the next leg of their tour will include Stranger Things’ star, singer/songwriter Maya Hawke, who also appears in the new Wes Anderson film Astroid City. But more notable is that Cursive and Neva Dinova will be the band’s special guests for the May 14 show at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom and that Azure Ray will be a special guest at the May 18 gig at Houston’s White Oak Music Hall. 

Conor also is in the news because of the release of the new Boygenius album, which has member Phoebe Bridgers doing the media circuit. Yesterday, Nylon speculated that the record’s closing track, “Letter to an Old Poet,” was about Oberst, which would be a less-than-flattering portrait if true. 

Rolling Stone asked a similar question to Bridgers back in February about lyrics she added to a SZA song, where she calls some bloke an asshole. She declined to acknowledge the asshole was Conor and went on to say she didn’t know what the future holds for Better Oblivion Community Center, the project she had with Oberst.

Ah, the complicated lives of rock stars. 

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Patrick Buchanan, the frontman to ‘90s Omaha punk band Mousetrap, will do a one-off performance of his new project, House of Transgressor, May 11 at miniBar in Kansas City. Says Buchananon, “The live setup is actually NO stringed instruments at all. I will be singing & playing synth, there’s a 2nd guy who is playing dual synths, and a drummer who is playing a completely modular electronic drum kit AND synth. It’s a bit like a gothic Kraftwerk or an electronic Bauhaus.” Check out their recorded music here.

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Hand Habits announced that their next album, Sugar the Bruise, will be released on Fat Possum June 16, apparently ending their relationship with Saddle Creek Records, who release their last couple albums, including 2021’s Fun House, which was one of my favorites that year.

It also appears that the label’s Los Angeles A&R person, Amber Carew, left Saddle Creek sometime last year. Carew was involved in signing many of the band’s recent acts, including Palm, Indigo De Souza, PENDANT, Shalom, Tomberlin, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Ada Lea, Disq, Spirit of the Beehive, Stef Chura and Young Jesus. The only reason I found out was that Shalom mentioned Carew left the label in a recent interview. Carew’s LinkedIn indicates she left Saddle Creek last May, so this is pretty old news.

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And finally, Nebraska native Mary Ruth McLeay reached out in late February to let me know she released a new indie tune called “I Want Too Much.” McLeay, who’s a student at Berklee College of Music, produced the track and played on it with Dean Andreadas, who engineered and played guitars.

I’d never heard of McLeay before, though she said she’s played at Reverb and The Waiting Room, where she’s opened for acts and taken part in Femme Fest. I checked out her older music and it was anything but indie, more pop-flavored in the Swifty vein. Was the change intentional, and why?

“Definitely intentional and for so many reasons, many of them relating to simply growing up,” she said, adding her early stuff was recorded when she was 17 and influenced by acts like Lorde and Blackbear. She produced a couple pop rock songs at Berklee, which were examples “of me honing my pop writing chops but not necessarily carving my personal place as an artist.”

“The making of ‘I Want Too Much’ felt like my arrival to the place I’ve been trying to get for eight years. I went into my friend Dean’s home studio (I discovered that’s my favorite way to record over the years) with my only objective being I wanted to make something that sounded like my interior and my thought processing and reflected my presence. Therefore, the sound turned out like the exact path genre-wise I’d like to be on for a long time.”

Here you go. Looking forward to the next one:

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Hi-Fi House closes, will leave Blackstone; new Hand Habits (Saddle Creek)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:08 pm January 19, 2021
Tears of Silver, a band fronted by The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, performed at Hi-Fi House on Oct. 2, 2017.

Last Thursday the Hi-Fi House account on Facebook posted that the members-only listening club and vinyl vault will be “going on hiatus effective immediately until this pandemic subsides for good.”

Located on the corner of 37th and Farnam, Hi-Fi House has been closed for almost a year and is giving up its Blackstone location with hopes of returning elsewhere sometime in the future, according to the post.

The brainchild of Kate Dussault, Hi-Fi House opened its listening room back in 2016 boasting high-end audio stations used for spinning a dazzling collection of vinyl, with records counting in the tens of thousands. In addition to hosting educational music labs and listening parties, the space hosted a number of live performances.

The first question that popped into my mind when I heard the news was what will happen with that massive vinyl collection? Dussault said the answer is being discussed now and storage options are being considered, including a satellite operation that utilizes parts of the collection. Stay tuned.

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Saddle Creek Records today announced it’s releasing a new 2-song EP by Hand Habits, a.k.a. Meg Duffy, titled Dirt. Co-produced by Sasami Ashworth and Kyle Thomas (King Tuff), Dirt hits the streets Feb. 19. The first track of the 2-song EP, “4th of July,” dropped this morning on YouTube via the following video. Pre-order the EP here.  

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Hand Habits, Tomberlin; Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Rob Noyes, David Nance tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:36 pm April 2, 2019

Hand Habits at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Sara Beth Tomberlin — or just Tomberlin as she’s known professionally and Toblerone as I sometimes mistakenly call her — sat center-stage at Slowdown Jr. last night with an acoustic guitar balanced on her crossed legs and sang heart-breakingly sad personal-journey songs in a voice I can only describe as “angelic.” You’d expect someone who writes such painful lyrics to be church-mouse quiet between songs and mumble morose thank you’s but instead, Tomberlin was a natural crack-up, talking about the time she was on the Jimmy Kimmel show during a bomb threat and how long it takes to get to the nearest Target from her hometown (hour and a half).

Tomberlin at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

She sang songs off her Saddle Creek debut as well as a couple new ones that fell into the same solemn territory as the others.  She thanked the crowd for being so quiet — the audience of around 60 stood as if in a trance throughout, except for two younger audience members who did a modified grind dance to every sad song.

By contrast, Hand Habits was a veritable rock show. Playing as a trio with bass and drums, Meg Duffy led with an electric guitar that broke away a few too few times for soaring solos that would make Richard Thompson proud. Duffy’s guitar work was stellar and I wished they’d work more of those solos into the set.

Instead, the band played mostly by the numbers songs from their latest Saddle Creek release, Placeholder, which is an early runner for my 2019 top-albums list. On the record, Duffy’s voice sounds like it’s always in harmony with someone or some thing. Live, the drummer added gorgeous harmonies, but for the big single, “Can’t Calm Down,” Tomberlin came up to the stage for one of the night’s highlights.

I can’t quite put my finger on who Duffy reminds me of, and I suppose they’d appreciate that (I’ve yet to meet a musician who likes being compared to anyone). That said (haha) I was at times reminded of Aimee Mann, at least in terms of the way Duffy and company made the most out of simple compositions for maximum emotional impact.

Not surprisingly, both acts said they were happy to be playing home base for Saddle Creek Records, whose reps were sprinkled throughout the audience, proudly watching their latest signees knock them dead.

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Huge show tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! is playing with her band, The Devouring Mothers. Advanced tickets to this show are long gone, but there may be a few available at the door for $22.50. The door is at 6:30, so if you’re interested, you’ll want to get in line well before than. The show starts at 7:30 with opening sets by Mercy Union and Control Top.

Also tonight, guitar virtuoso Rob Noyes performs at Reverb Lounge. Joining him are Jon Collin and our very own David Nance. $10, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


There’s a good show every night this week; Hand Habits, Tomberlin, Mansionair tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:34 pm April 1, 2019

Hand Habits plays tonight at Slowdown Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

There’s a flood going on in Nebraska all right… a flood of great shows. Hope you got your sleep this weekend because you’re not getting any this week, because there’s a great show every night.

Starting tonight when Saddle Creek Records’ latest roster additions — Hand Habits and Tomberlin — play at Slowdown Jr. Headliner Hand Habits is the project of singer/songwriter/guitarist Meg Duffy, whose new album, Placeholder, was released on Saddle Creek earlier this year. The album is sneaky good, and heavier than you might expect. Duffy is also a member of Kevin Morby’s band, and has done studio work on guitar for a number of artists, including The War on Drugs.

Opening the show at 8 p.m. is another recent Saddle Creek addition, singer/songwriter Tomberlin. Her style is pretty much what you’d expect — quiet, withdrawn, personal acoustic confessions. You get both for a mere $10.

Also tonight, dreamy electronic trio Mansionaire (Glassnote Records) plays at Reverb Lounge with Beacon. $15, 8 p.m.

And then, take a look at what’s in store the rest of the week:

— Tuesday: Laura Jane Grace (Against Me) & The Devouring Mothers at O’Leaver’s
— Tuesday: Rob Noyes with Jon Collin and David Nance at Reverb
— Wednesday: Playboy Manbaby and The Candy Boys at Brothers
— Thursday: Telekinesis at Slowdown, Jr.
— Thursday: Bad Bad Men with In the Whale at O’Leaver’s
— Friday: Kero Kero Bonito at The Waiting Room
— Saturday: Twinsmith at Reverb
— Sunday: Gymshorts at Reverb

Holy smokes!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Hand Habits signs to Saddle Creek, new album March 1; Remember Sports tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:47 pm January 8, 2019

A screen cap from Hand Habits’ video for title track, “Placeholder.”

by Tim McMahan,

Saddle Creek Record’s LA connections locked up yet another new artist for the label’s roster.

Hand Habits is the LA-based project of singer/songwriter Meg Duffy, who is also known as the guitarist for Kevin Morby’s touring band as well as her work with Erin Birgy (Mega Bog) and The War on Drugs.

Hand Habits’ debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), came out on Woodsist Records in 2017.  The band is shifting to Saddle Creek for their sophomore LP, placeholder, due out March 1.

Sayeth the press release: “Instrumentally, placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today.”

BTW, if the name sounds familiar it could be because Saddle Creek release a single by Hand Habits (“yr heart” b/w “Carpenter’s Daughter”) in the fall of 2017 as part of their Document Series.

Pre-orders  for placeholder (including for a very cool limited-to-250 colored vinyl version) are being taken now at the Saddle Creek Store.

Needless to say, Hand Habits will be touring this spring, including an April 1 date at The Slowdown.

Check out the video for the title track below.

And here’s half of that Document single:

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Philly-based self-proclaimed “basement rock” band Remember Sports has been playing their style of jangle-indie rock since 2012. Their latest, Slow Buzz, came out last year on Father/Daughter Records. Check ’em out tonight at Reverb Lounge. Label-mates Nadine opens at 8 p.m. $10.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.