While Tiny Ruins began as a true solo project by songwriter Hollie Fullbrook, its delicate sound was subtly expanded for 2014's Brightly Painted One. Like that album, 2019's Olympic Girls was recorded with bass player Cass Basil, drummer Alex Freer, multi-instrumentalist Finn Scholes, and producer/guitarist Tom Healy, but it features appreciably livelier, lusher arrangements. Fullbrook's beguiling vocal tone -- which is warm and gentle in the folk tradition, but textured -- is still front and center of each track in tandem with her folk-styled melodies, but on the opening title track, accompanying her voice and deft fingerpicking are Mellotron, electric guitar, and, eventually, a more assertive rhythm section than was featured on her previous releases. Elsewhere, the freer-formed and even lusher "One Million Flowers" takes a psychedelic turn. The track's surprises include shifting meters and a brief but memorable upright bass solo midway through. Sparer entries include the haunted acoustic guitar ballad "School of Design" and "Bounty," which features ethereal vintage folk with adventurous chord progressions à la Vashti Bunyan. A highlight among an album with nothing close to a mailed-in song is "Holograms," a tune that evokes a subtle mix of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, daydreams, and childhood crushes. The album's breezy complexity is just one of its charms, but a defining one, along with Fullbrook's distinctly lyrical vocal lines. With a handful of impressive releases already under their belt, Tiny Ruins have outdone themselves here, with a full set of compellingly crafted songs that are enriched rather than overwhelmed by the fuller sound.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson