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    Album Review

    With ‘i’ll show you stronger,’ pronoun does just that

    Alyse Vellturo
    Shervin Lainez
    Alyse Vellturo

    Looking at the catalog and online presence of Alyse Vellturo, who performs as the one-woman band pronoun, one might expect a certain delicacy and gentleness, almost to the point of vapor. “It’s a heartbroken girl in her [expletive] apartment in Brooklyn,” her biography on Bandcamp reads; her song titles are all rendered in tender lowercase.

    “Me and my friends do have this joke that I am just a teeny, tiny, very small pronoun,” the Berklee College of Music graduate and Concord native told Highlight Magazine in 2016 while promoting pronoun’s first EP, “There’s no one new around you,” which she made in the wake of a painful breakup. The tracks on that 2016 bedroom-produced EP sometimes lend themselves to a small, closed-in feeling: Vellturo’s softly raspy voice nestles under a fuzzy blanket of close-quartered synths, and sung melodies don’t roam too much. However, pulsating percussion and anthemic guitarwork keep the songs from drifting into the territory of automated-playlist stream fodder. Inside the smallness is something vast.

    And now, with debut LP “i’ll show you stronger,” out Friday on Rhyme & Reason Records, it seems Vellturo is officially done being teeny tiny, if she ever was truly tiny at all. Though she’s still recording and producing alone in her apartment, and the lyrics still pine and rage with familiar queer romantic angst, the songs are made for the open road and sky, not curling up in bed. The light haze of malaise that hung over the last record has dissipated.


    “run,” which was released last year, provided the new album’s declaration of intent, and it’s a delicious slice of dreamy but fierce guitar pop. Vellturo’s voice typically hovers around the ground level of most women’s ranges; this song explores that familiar territory on the verses and then explodes upward with the chorus, a clear, howling solo driving it home.

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    On tracks like “you’re not trying at all,” “you didn’t even make the bed,” and “sadie,” layered vocals run together in a rapid release of often-unintelligible words upon words; the sheer expression is more important than the content. Vellturo wrote “sadie” while skateboarding, and that’s not the only track where the drumbeats and background vocals clatter along like cracks under her wheels.

    The second half of “i’ll show you stronger” has fewer memorable melodies and frays into feeling like a collection of OK-to-good songs rather than a unified statement. It’s somewhat frustrating given the solid connections at the beginning, such as the transition between the pensive “for the story” and the fiery “stay” — a sharp U-turn in mood that sounds so intuitive it doesn’t feel like a break at all.

    Still, it’s worth sticking around for the closing track, “everybody knows,” a burn-it-down final goodbye to the unnamed ex with echoes of emo and early Passion Pit. Vellturo can rock a rousing chorus with the best of them: “And the things I thought would build me up one-eighty’d now and made me feel so small,” she sings. She may have felt it for a while, but I don’t think she was ever teeny tiny at all.

    pronoun plays City Winery May 30

    Zoë Madonna can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.