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No Glory

No Glory
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The centerpiece of No Glory—Queens singer-songwriter Hannah Pruzinsky’s heart-rending debut LP as h. pruz—is “I Keep Changing,” an urgent, visceral rock song. Pruzinsky evokes the urge to purge and remake one’s self in reaction to natural shifts: “I let it all wear out/I keep changing.” In the context of a body-horror-reminiscent metaphor, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter—who also performs and co-writes in rising NYC rock band Sister., and collaborates with Mutual Benefit and Told Slant—articulates the way we become aware of and process the challenging experiences that shape us. Here, they portray the disappointments and shaky pivots of their recent past in physical terms: as accumulating bruises. Elsewhere on this affecting record, the experiences are recast as abstracted feelings and dim memories, played back and reconsidered in their elegant, conciliatory voice over circular chord progressions. Recorded scrappily in a cabin, the songs are given depth and definition by their unvarnished sonics and impressionistic arrangements, conjuring the image of a lost gem of a private-press folk record.

Lyrically, No Glory (out on March 29 on Mtn Laurel Recording Co.) derives its power by touching on a range of pivotal moments from different emotional vantages. A widely revered voice in the NYC indie-folk scene, Pruzinsky’s rare talents include the patience and allergy to artifice and overstatement in their songwriting. They take cues from similarly restrained but inimitable voices like Diane Cluck with her pastoral “intuitive folk,” Adrianne Lenker and her open-veined word association, along with the plainspoken catharsis of Lomelda and the sotto voce confessions of Sufjan Stevens. Often, the dominant states of being reflected in these songs are heartsickness, regret, and emotional exhaustion of different vintages. Behind and alongside these impressions, though, there is an unmistakable sense of hope. Pruzinsky sketches hypotheses about more constructive ways to live that feel just within reach, granting grace to those that have hurt them the most and—a much harder task—themselves.

The record’s production on No Glory feels as bright and accommodating as the songwriting. Infringing on the clarity of the guitar and voice—sometimes built from Pruzinsky’s first-shot demo takes—are faint glissandos of synths, winds, and incidental noise tucked away in corners of the stereo image. It directly evokes the space in which it was largely written and recorded: a small cabin in upstate New York with no running water. Co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Felix Walworth (Told Slant, Florist) and Pruzinsky favored echoey room mics in the mix, making the space itself feel like a voice in the music. “World Fire” is a particularly dramatic example of this: a deathly spare piano ballad (think early Cat Power) in which silence and roomy incidental sound feel almost built into the form.

Against this halcyon backdrop, No Glory periodically drifts toward imagining a utopian future, offering a time-lapse vision into a new and more functional life. With its yearning, stretched melodic intervals, “Like Mist” imagines a relationship in its most hopeful and disordered stage, mixed unabashedly romantic sentiments with paranoid diversions: “Make it clear/That you’re honest/Say you don’t have to do/This if you don’t want to.” Similarly, the balmy, Mazzy-Star-reminiscent “Dawn”—driven by a gorgeous piano earworm—bears out the implication of its title by anxiously celebrating a fresh connection. But Pruzinsky acknowledges dark, well-worn tendencies that still lurk in the shadows of the scene: “I have a talent for anger/And I’m jealous when I care.” Elsewhere on the record, pain and guilt seem more inexorable. The darkest point of the record, “Hurting” is an uncannily beautiful exploration of a troubled familial relationship, infringed upon by feedback swells and cat-on-the-keyboard piano flourishes. Even here, with a situation that feels too deep-seated to be fixed, Pruzinsky strives for transformation, taking action to shift the painful boundaries that have led the relationship to ossify: “How can we exist/In this design?/Finger in a glass of water, I’ll smudge the lines.”

For Pruzinsky, “no glory” is a mantra that refers to the very human type of complexity embedded into these songs: Being in the present, in a place of newness, does not mean that one should feel beyond reproach, regret, or doubt. Pruzinsky does not present this concept to encourage us to distrust our own inclinations, but to examine them more deeply without passing judgment on them. Every element of these songs creates a great deal of space for listeners to feel how they feel individually: a thought rings out in the room before it finds definition; new sonic shading recasts a lyric the second time it comes around. Pruzinsky’s lyrics evoke a feeling of presentness which is inherently precarious and uncertain. In their generous, scintillating musical contexts, however, we hear the possibilities as much as the pitfalls.

- Winston Cook-Wilson

composting memories

@hanapruz

Found tracks

h. pruz - Dark Sun
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h. pruz - Dawn
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h. pruz - Worldfire
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h. pruz - I Keep Changing
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h. pruz - Angel
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h. pruz - Like Mist
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h. pruz - Hurting
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h. pruz - Return Retreat
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h. pruz - Useful
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