Album Review: Tiny Ruins – Olympic Girls (Milk!)

Freshly minted on Courtney Barnett’s Milk! Label, Tiny Ruins’ third album proves that this is a band in the truest sense of the word, not just an outlet for Hollie Fullbrook’s songs.

Sure, Hollie’s songs and her voice are still the focal points of the album, but the production, with its attention to detail and expansive use of instrumentation makes the contribution of each band member vital.

In case you need reminding, Tiny Ruins consists of bassist Cass Basil, drummer Alex Freer and Tom Healy, who plays electric guitar and co-produced the record with Hollie, who plays acoustic guitar.

That’s the basic instrumentation, although there is much more…flutes, mellotrons, synths, cellos, vibes and various implements of percussion run through the album’s 11 songs, but I’m working without liner notes so I can’t tell you who is playing what.

I can tell you that this new, expansive production approach has made the music of Tiny Ruins much more open and outward bound, as opposed to the band’s more inward, claustrophobic feel on their previous two albums.

The title track kicks things off with a lovely acoustic guitar run, followed by Hollie’s husky, warm voice. As the song continues in ¾ time various percussive elements, synth lines and an electric guitar weave around the lead vocal creating a carefree, open vibe.

On School Of Design, Hollie’s songwriting is more descriptive than emotive, while, again, the production flourishes of cello, vibes and percussion bring Fullbrook’s words to life as much as her vocal.

First single, How Much, sets a dreamy, summertime tone…”On a lilo, Reading your letter, I miss you darling, I hope you’re better, It’s such a drag to be apart”

Fullbrook’s voice virtually floats off into space by the end of the track.

An early highlight is Holograms, featuring lush strings, shimmering backing vocals and fascinating lyrics including a reference to a motorcycle accident Hollie survived a few years ago thanks to her “Darth Vader novelty helmet”.

Actually, the album seems to get stronger the deep into it you get. One Million Flowers generates a faint Sgt Pepper/ Mr Kite/psychedelic feel thanks to, what sounds like a calliope, while My Love Leda tells the story of a couple who meet in a laundromat and their ensuing future together.

It’s charming.

As is Stars, False, Fading, which begins with some discordant efx before settling into a jangly story of UFO sighting and drones.

Finally, Cold Enough To Climb wraps the album with a clanging, rattling soundscape that complements Fullbrook’s dreamy vocal.

The additional production flourishes always add to the song and never distract, making this, Tiny Ruins’ most sonically interesting and emotionally satisfying album so far.

Marty Duda