On No Glory, h. pruz Turns Spacious Folk Music Into a Fabled Catharsis

The Queens singer-songwriter’s debut album pierces through the cluttering noise of its own genre by being generous, captivating and well-proportioned.

Music Reviews h. pruz
On No Glory, h. pruz Turns Spacious Folk Music Into a Fabled Catharsis

There is something unmistakable about h. pruz’s debut album, No Glory. The work of Queens singer-songwriter Hannah Pruzinsky, the nine-song project is a brief, wallpapering accumulation of visceral, momentous folk music. When lead single “Dark Sun” hit my inbox last November, it should have come with a warning—something along the lines of “this song will wreck you if you let it.” I had been familiar with Pruzinsky’s music before then, having heard their 2022 EP Again, There on an occasion when I was still freelancing and, thus, had more time to sit and listen to everything. I was transfixed by Pruzisnky’s command of language, but I was even more transfixed by their ability to insert subtle nuances into a genre that has, if we’re being completely honest here, had no shortage of material over the last four, five years. But h. pruz and No Glory have pierced through the cluttering noise of alt-folk by being generous, captivating and well-proportioned. Written in a “frenzied summer state in a cabin attic” in Woodstock, New York, these 40 minutes don’t stretch into lifetime territory, instead existing nicely as a measure of clarity and no-nonsense, empathetic gentleness.

And likewise, “Dark Sun” cracks No Glory open with a deliverance of windswept ambiance and Pruzinsky’s featherlight vocals that skyscrape into a towering, plucked gathering of emotion. “I’m your dark hiding place,” they sing. “Crush me up, take a part. Residue on your fingers, take my hand, leave a mark.” It’s a subdued way to kick a record off, with just a voice and a guitar, but Pruzinsky’s urge to establish the ecosystem of No Glory as their own is the only way the journey could begin. When “Dark Sun” turns into “Dawn,” there’s a blanket of sincerity that washes over Pruzinsky and their collaborators—Felix Walworth (who co-produced and engineered the album), James Chrisman, Jonnie Baker, Adelyn Strei and Tallen Gabriel. “I have a talent for anger and I’m jealous when I care, but I’d let you have another,” Pruzinsky sings. “Like the weather, I’ll be fair.” Their strumming quickly swells into a precious breakdown of synthesizers, piano and clarinet, but the arrangement doesn’t outrun itself. With Pruzinsky’s guitar acting as a metronome set-dressing, Walworth, Chrisman, Strei and Gabriel are able to spread out at their own pace. “We can do whatever we want to,” Pruzinsky concludes. “And you make me wanna do it all.”

“I Keep Changing” sees Pruzinsky and the band pick up the tempo, with a pushing backbeat from Walworth’s percussion and Baker’s sprawling lead guitar. “I keep doing things that bruise the side of my legs,” Pruzinsky sings. “Running far in a field through the middle of the day, it’s so precious to be worn.” The song is precarious and driving, as Pruzinsky lets their voice flirt with a hem of raw edges. It’s one of those transformative moments that nearly jumps out of the speaker, as the whole band revels in restraint while inlaying subtle fixtures in the background for close-listeners to discover—including faint acoustic strums, Pruzinsky’s near-spoken word outro and the echo of whatever room they’re singing in.

A few minutes later, “Like Mist” will turn you inside out, as Pruzinsky dreams up an out-of-sorts relationship that needs mending. This is where their songwriting really flourishes, as they merge anxious musings with scene-setting truths in ways that are as uncomfortable and familiar as they achingly hopeful. “And you know the words to say when they ask us if we’re friends or just two strangers feeling something good,” they sing. “And mostly, I don’t know where this one’s gonna go. And I just can’t get a read on what this all really means. Do we have to know?” I keep returning to this track especially, as Pruzinsky channels a zone someplace in-between Hope Sandoval and Skullcrusher, pairing a certain glint of darkness with echoey fits of optimism. It’s marvelous.

The back-to-back punches of “Hurting” and “Return Retreat” are gently ornate and spiritually loud. On the former, Pruzinsky bemoans a shared grief with someone who could be a lover, a stranger or a friend. “Stutter when I say it, the house we’ve always been in is still waiting for its ghost,” they sing. “There’s voices in the kitchen, say it’s always something with them and I don’t know how to walk back in.” While the backdrop is sublime, bucolic, the foreground is quietly dangerous—and Pruzinsky pairs Walworth’s faint percussion and drips of Chrisman’s piano with guitar chords that sound a lot like a chugging train. The prairie of h. pruz’s work shines when a lot is happening in short bursts of stirring history. On “Hurting,” and the instrumental interlude of “Return Retreat,” the band plays their notes in quick rests, as if they lightly hit their mark and then suddenly retreat—only to wind back up again, like a cat walking across a piano. It’s dainty and fluttering, embracing its solemn gorgeousness to such an extent that it makes much of No Glory sound like a field recording.

The five-minute finale of “Useful” is Pruzinsky’s greatest act so far, as they transform across the growing soundscape, shuddering with a hope that the space between them and someone else has purpose. The “things that glow can’t handle violence” line is a damning moment that’ll cut you up, but “Useful” is its own climate in an orbit of outpouring, atmospheric and roving songs. “Hold a piece of fabric over what you see,” Pruzinsky sings to finish No Glory. “There are details we might misread, that the all was everything. But the all was everything.” Listening to Pruzinsky meticulously pour over how much of themselves they ought to give us opens up a world of healing on its own, and these nine tracks are symbiotic in that way—you can take what you need from its minimalist body, and there will still be, somehow, miraculously, leftovers. No Glory sounds both like a doorway and a bruise, h. pruz’s entry-point for the rest of us into some fabled catharsis that anyone can embrace, remember or meet for the very first time.

Matt Mitchell reports as Paste‘s music editor from their home in Columbus, Ohio.

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