Storage units, with their heavy padlocked doors and stockpiles of intimate possessions, are ripe for metaphors about emotional compartmentalization. On her debut album, Public Storage, Los Angeles guitarist and songwriter Hana Vu finds inspiration there, drawing on memories of the storage units her family used during their frequent moves and her subsequent feelings of displacement. At 21 years old, Vu has already become a local electro-pop fixture with an impressive list of career triumphs: she’s opened for Soccer Mommy and Wet, collaborated with Willow Smith on her 2018 single “Shallow,” and released a concept EP focused on two Hollywood A-listers, 2019’s Nicole Kidman / Anne Hathaway. But on Public Storage, released by Ghostly International in November, Vu shifts the spotlight from red carpets to plagued psyches. While the album’s roots stretch back many years, Vu typically spent only a day or two writing and recording each of its 12 tracks. The record’s disarming frankness needles at Gen Z’s agonies and anxieties. “World’s Worst” is a brazen cross section of existential dread, despite its light drum cadence and jaunty flute: Vu declares herself the world’s worst color, talker, lover, and winner. “My House” is a spiritual sequel to Diana Ross’s 1979 hit “Itʼs My House,” transplanting the narrative from an opulent mansion to a dirty “hole in the wall.” The album reaches its peak powers when Vu navigates the contrast between her concise, pithy lyrics and lush arrangements—“Everybody’s Birthday” juxtaposes chipper cowbell and gold-plated shame, for instance, while “Maker” pairs thrumming banjo with flagrant desperation. The heart of Vu’s appeal is her deference to a bygone pop-music landscape still fresh in our memories—the tizzy over Lana Del Rey, the fixation on Lorde, the rise and fall of Avril Lavigne. Vu offers an unvarnished addition to this spit-shined canon—it’s made to look picture-perfect, but her relentless urgency reveals flaws underneath. With her squeamish album art, references to school shootings (“April Fool”), and nods to the West LA fires (“Heaven”), she demonstrates that she’s acutely aware of pop music’s thematic blind spots—and she’s here to shine a light.
Hana Vu, Burr Oak, Emily Jane Powers, Neptune’s Core, Wed 1/19, 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, $20, 18+