Hana Vu Unpacks Uncertainty on 'Public Storage'
Published Nov 04, 2021Hana Vu has had a brimming career, and she's still only at the beginning of it. The 21-year-old Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has toured and opened for artists such as Soccer Mommy, Wet and Kilo Kish, collaborated with Willow Smith on the 2018 song "Queen of High School" and has been steadily self-releasing a sizeable discography, including the EPs How Many Times Have You Driven By (2018) and Nicole Kidman / Anne Hathaway (2019). Her DIY bedroom pop rock ranges from danceable synths to delicate, instrumental folk arrangements, where she often dissects the age-old themes of existentialism, failure and the fear of getting older, all of which are ever-present and fully fleshed out on Public Storage.
Vu's experiences with moving around a lot in Los Angeles as a child and making frequent use of storage units informed the title of the album. "Self-storage is just a collection of my things that I accumulate over time, and that's what songwriting is to me – notes back to myself of experiences, and stuff I was feeling," she shared in an interview with NME. Moving and feeling unable to settle into one space is a motif on the album, first explored on the opening track "April Fool," where Vu expresses an inability to communicate. The staccato piano chords and soft horns drawn out underneath them invoke the dreamy feeling of tiredly riding the train home after a long day. "Aubade" is an infectious dance track with bouncy synths and bass about disappearing and becoming a new person where your old self can't be reached. Vu's alto voice is big and wide, but possesses a sleepy, languid quality to it — a tone reminiscent of a poppier Lucy Dacus, or Ella Williams of Squirrel Flower.
The chaos of uncertainty in the transitional period from childhood to adulthood brings the longing to believe in something greater or finding a place to belong. Vu has said she isn't a religious person, but on "Anything Striking," she waits for something to guide her, whether it be a real life figure or a spiritual presence; the eerie descending piano and slow beats like the tolling of a bell, leading her down an endless hallway. The pulsating synths on single "Keeper" make for the type of cinematic tune that would play at a raging house party, but as the protagonist, Vu isn't interested in what's going on and longs to be elsewhere.
Public Storage is not all brooding pop, however, and a handful of pleasantly surprising sounds lift it up from that realm. "Gutter" is pure grunge with crunching guitar riffs, and the strict, tight string section on "Heaven" sounds like it could have come from Empress Of's 2015 album Me. The title track delves into Vu's contemplations on failure, family and defeat, but has the most classically indie rock sound on the whole record. "World's Worst" strikes the perfect balance between childhood innocence and the quiet, casual loneliness of adulthood. Soothing, plucked strings that resemble a music box build and blend into rousing percussion, but lyrically, Vu warns a potential lover of the turbulence of her life: "Oh honey / I promise I'm the world's worst lover / You can tell all your friends / I wonder if I get much younger than this."
"Maker" closes out the album, a hushed, tender folk ballad accented by the soft twang of a banjo and velvety, warm chorus harmonies that envelope listeners in a comforting hug. "Can you make me anybody else?" Vu sings. Though she seemingly poses this question out into the void in search of an answer, it's true that she at least is musically self-assured and fully realized on a debut as layered and meditative as Public Storage. (Ghostly International)