What would happen to all of the unused holiday decorations, the winter clothes in boxes, the family heirlooms that live in storage units at the end of the world? Hana Vu finds herself with this question on her latest release, Public Storage, released on Ghostly this month. The inspiration for the album was the idea of the storage unit, “these public expressions of thought, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’” From the album, it doesn’t look as though Vu is taking a look through her family’s storage unit, but rather snooping around strangers’ units that have been left behind, attempting to create some sort of intimacy but often not quite reaching it.
The album spans through isolated piano, ripping guitar, bedroom pop and disco synth influences, grounded by Vu’s vocals. “April Fool” opens with a piano that leads to Vu’s pleading vocals. She stands alone in a dark storage unit, surrounded by a stranger’s life, and the door opens to blind her in the sun. The title track, “Public Storage” feels a bit lost in its world. The guitar builds up toward some angst, but it doesn’t quite know where or why it is going where it goes. The lyrics do not do the work of moving the track either, with vague questions like “Do you believe in family?”; Vu is attempting to prove something, but it is unclear what is being proven.
A few of the tracks call to other pieces, and they all seem to shine. “Aubade” calls to Phillip Larken’s “Aubade,” a look into the eyes of death. Vu contrasts the darkness of the reference with a pop track with self-deprecating lyrics that shine: “If you stay the night I’ll have a new face, someone with a bright eye nothing like me.” Another track, “Keeper,” was made while Vu was only listening to “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush. The song has a darkness that moves upward through the sounds of the guitar distorting. “My House” starts off the back half of the album after Diana Ross’s “It’s My House.” The track builds around the most angsty guitar arrangement on the track, and Vu’s vocals plead to “make my house a home,” where the house collapses and falls apart around her.
The second half of the album has some of the best moments, like in “World’s Worst,” which opens with strings, and Vu’s voice echoes on itself. We imagine her again digging amongst the storage units, comparing her life to the strangers she yearns to understand. “I’m nothing but the world’s worst color oh, I’ll stain your skin.” Henry Moser’s addition of the flute and sax make the track dynamic and lively. Tracks like “Anything Striking” and “I Got” embody the claustrophobic feeling of intense isolation, influenced by the pandemic but also into the world of Public Storage, with Vu at the end of the world, tucking herself in under a mountain she created of all of the things left in the storage units. The album ends on “Maker,” a track that opens with an enchanting string arrangement. The track is Vu’s final call and plead to some higher power. She digs herself out from the bottom of the mountain of things she made, climbs to the top and makes a deal with God.
Public Storage enters Hana Vu’s discography that seems to be at just the beginning. At 21, Vu has already progressed from playing surf rock to bedroom pop to a beautiful mixing of genre and style, where each track feels like its own moment in time.
Daily Arts Writer Katy Trame can be reached at email@example.com.