The new record from New Zealand band Tiny Ruins, Olympic Girls, out on Friday via Ba Da Bing here in the States, is a remarkable release. At first listen, things seem pitched in the direction of the audiences of Cat Power or Elliott Smith, and yet the material here is quietly risky, with each cut containing something subtle to haunt a listener.
Leader Hollie Fullbrook anchors the selections here, like the woozy "How Much", with the sort of warm vocals that one once found on albums from Aimee Mann and Sandy Denny, while tunes like the title cut here reveal debts owed to early solo records from the members of The Beatles -- well, maybe not any of Ringo's. Elsewhere, the fantastic "Holograms" nods in the direction of the best offerings from Fiona Apple, or Van Morrison, the tune a slow burn that gives itself over to a real rush of a chorus. And while "One Million Flowers" sways on the back of the sort of hook that Joni Mitchell would have used at the peak of her powers, Fullbrook and crew -- Cass Basil on bass, Alex Freer on drums, and Tom Healy on electric guitar -- burnish the big melody with understated, and thoroughly precise bits of jazz inflection.
So much of Olympic Girls charms that I really hopes it reaches a wide audience here. If people want to lump this in with Cat Power's style of music, that's fine because I like Cat Power, but, really, there's a lot going on here under the surface of things, enough that I kept thinking back to my favorite, most meditative Van Morrison releases, or certain ballads from Rufus Wainwright even as I enjoyed this sort of take on those forms. Hollie Fullbrook has revealed herself as a formidable force here, and I recommend this record highly.
Olympic Girls by Tiny Ruins is out on Friday via Ba Da Bing Records.
More details on Tiny Ruins via the band's official Facebook page.
[Photo: Jenna Todd]