Aug 202020
angel olsen hand habits walls cover

Hand Habits is Meg Duffy, a guitarist known for their work with The War on Drugs, Weyes Blood and others. Angel Olsen is a singer-songwriter from Missouri. Many have noted their music similarities, and they joined forces on a new cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ “Walls (Circus).”

“Walls (Circus),” from Petty’s soundtrack to She’s the One, was a much bigger hit in Canada, which is why it feels like one of his biggest songs to us up here. A second, more subdued but faster version of the song (subtitled “No. 3”) was released on the album as well, but it’s significantly less familiar.

The single version (subtitled “Circus”) features a rather elaborate arrangement for such a simple song. It’s an arrangement worthy of Petty’s former and future producer Jeff Lynne, but Petty, bandmate Mike Campbell and Rick Rubin produced it, and their arrangement honors the wall-of-sound approach Lynne and co. used on Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open. I was so convinced it was Lynne I mistook Lindsey Buckingham’s backing vocals as Lynne’s.

Together, their approach to “Walls (Circus)” is a polar opposite to the more famous Heartbreakers version. It owes something to version “No. 3”, at least in terms of that version’s simpler arrangement, but the tempo is closer to “Circus.” There’s just one guitar and two voices. And it’s revelatory. The emotional power of the lyrics is on full display without the dross of the most popular arrangement. It’s simple song about about strength of love and in this version we fully feel its power.

Check out many more Tom Petty covers here.

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