Since her haunting 2011 debut as Tiny Ruins, New Zealand singer/songwriter Hollie Fullbrook has toured the world, earned considerable critical success, and expanded her quiet folk project into a trio. After an EP of demos in 2013, Fullbrook, along with bassist Cass Basil and drummer Alexander Freer, signed with Britain's Bella Union label and recorded their follow-up, 2014's gently austere Brightly Painted One. The expansion of the band and subsequent move to a larger record label have affected Tiny Ruins only in the subtlest of ways. The hushed introspection and heavy British folk influences remain at the core of her sound as Fullbrook continues to channel her inner Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake throughout the album's 11 songs. Recorded in Auckland by engineer Tom Healy, Brightly Painted One features a richer and deeper sonic palette with Fullbrook's lightly picked guitar still at the core, but sparingly ornamented with organ, brass, and string flourishes on lovely ballads such as "She'll Be Coming Round" and "Straw Into Gold." Other tracks, like the enchanting opener "Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens" and the wistful "Chainmail Maker," are even more understated, focusing generally on just the core acoustic trio and Fullbrook's alluringly sad voice. It's a beautiful album, but one so deliberately eschewing all modern conveniences and casting itself so wholly in a far-distant past of hazy English Sundays that if it weren't for the quality of the band's work, it might come off as slightly too contrived. As it is, though, Brightly Painted One sounds more like a loving tribute to a simpler, slower time and once decanted, the songs begin to take on a personality of their own.
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