Tiny Ruins' debut album Some Were Meant For Sea was one of the best of 2011. She was nominated for the Taite Prize, and accolades were bestowed from all over the globe. So yes, there is a certain weight of expectation that comes with the release of second record Brightly Painted One.
In the intervening years Tiny Ruins has gone from being the solo project of Hollie Fullbrook to being a band with two more permanent members - Cass Basil on upright and electric bass, and Alex Freer on drums, but the songs are still very much the work of Fullbrook, and they're just as charming, and evocative, and delicate as anything on her debut, but with a new layer of self-confidence and a sense of wisdom.
They're also more personal than her earlier tracks, less about other characters, and more about her own perspective and stories, gathered, one imagines both from her life in Auckland and her many months wandering the world from one tour to the next.
She manages to convey the notion of a visitor who knows the secrets of every city she passes through - more a traveller than a tourist, and both weary and hopeful, and her voice has found an even more perfect balance between pure and smoky.
There's so many gems, both musical and lyrical across the album, it's hard to pick favourites. She manages to say a lot with lines like "Nobody feels old at the museum" in opener Me at the Museum, You In The Wintergardens, and "That old free will might be a myth, but I'm gonna try and get me some" in She'll Be Coming Round, which takes flight in an elegant and compelling groove in the last third.
Reasonable Man has this warm, cocooning feel, but also makes your hairs stand up in a quiet, perfectly executed way, because it's a tale that walks a perfect line between dreamy and cynical.
"I went in search of a reasonable man. The one I read about in books, and I drew me up a plan. I said I'd like to meet him on a corner if I can, then we could take either road ... and I thought ooh it must be lonely, to be the only voice of reason."
There's a beautiful folk-soul yearning in Carriages; heartbreak is captured in an intimate, affecting manner in Chainmail Maker; Straw Into Gold is a wonderful waltz through the struggles of daily life; and Jamie Blue offers a nostalgic tale of fortune favouring the brave.
The album is built up from the simple skeleton of guitar, drums, vocals and bass, and there are colourings of horns and Rhodes piano, strings and percussion that lend the whole affair a gentle grandeur.
There's no need for bluster and fanfare though, and Fullbrook understands the art of using all things with care and subtlety, including dynamics. But when you have a voice as good as this, and the stories to go with it, you need little else.
Compelling folk-soul of gentle grandeur