Album Review: Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One

tiny_ruins_brightly_painted_oneDelicate lyrics, soft vocals and powerful instrumentation combine to form a standout sophomore record from New Zealand natives Tiny Ruins. Brightly Painted One, out this week on Bella Union, took three years to write and produce, and it shows. Vocalist Hollie Fullbrook demands attention as her lyrics tell complex stories of both optimism and loneliness, and question aspects of human nature, such as where the “reasonable man” goes when “the going gets tough.” Although unexpected from an album full of slow-paced, lyrically focused melodies, the record undoubtedly holds the listeners’ attention through each of the ten tracks, all led by Fullbrook’s captivating voice.

Accompanied by bassist Cass Basil and drummer Alexander Freer, Fullbrook’s lyrics carry the album with a strong force. Opening track “Me at the Museum You in the Wintergardens” sets the tone for the remaining tunes with a low-tempo ballad that lures listeners in with Fullbrook’s addicting voice. “Carriages” follows with a similar vibe, as the vocals gently overpower the easy background music. A sense of hope is conveyed through the lyrics of “Chainmail Maker,” where Fullbrook exclaims, “you’ve got to keep on/ try not to weep on keeping on.”

With a soft and inviting guitar introduction, “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round” perfectly showcases the soothing timbre of Fullbrook’s voice in one of the most mellow tracks on the record. “Straw Into Gold, ” although another slow-paced tune, brings a new dimension to the album as the song gradually increases pace with the addition of a trumpet. “The Ballad of the Hanging Parcel” follows a similar pattern with a relaxed pace that ultimately picks up with the addition of more instruments. Another song, “Night Owl,” differs in that the instruments carry the lyrics along a calm and simple track, rather than having the vocals take the key focus.

“White Street Lighting” closes the record strikingly as one of the more fast-tempo tracks that allows listeners to fully appreciate Fullbrook’s range. With a combination of folk and blues influences, Tiny Ruins differentiates themselves on Brightly Painted One with a mix of soft drumming, bass, and guitar melodies. However, the group’s most vital weapon and strongest asset remains Fullbrook’s immediate and present vocal abilities, which define and give life to these songs.

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