Album | Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea

In 2008, Adelir Antonio de Carli, a Brazilian priest, launched himself off a cliff with 1,000 helium balloons and was never seen again. His story led Hollie Fullbrook to write the song ‘Priest With Balloons’, a lyric from which gives Tiny Ruins’ stunning debut album, Some Were Meant For Sea, its title.

Father Carli’s tale was greeted with mirth and derision by much of the media – he was, inevitably, a Darwin Award winner that year – ignoring that his charity stunt was both brave and well intentioned. Fullbrook, though, saw in it grace and beauty. She sensed in that Catholic priest the same need for adventure which she had always felt and which gives Some Were Meant For Sea its sense of yearning and restlessness. The title is apt not just because of the recurring nautical imagery and references, but for what they represent. Fullbrook is from New Zealand, a country surrounded and divided by water, so it’s no surprise that the sea to her is not just the sea – it is a symbol of adventure, it is travel, it is newness.

By contrast, it would be easy to think there was nothing adventurous here musically – little more than a guitar, occasional piano and barely-there backing vocals in support of Fullbrook’s voice, a tremendous instrument which is occasionally tremulous but at the same time rich and thick. But like Father Carli, she gives herself no safety net. Such is the simplicity of the arrangements that a single note, a word or a pause out of place would stick out like priest suspended from multicoloured balloons against the blue afternoon sky. Luckily, there is not a single note, word or pause out of place on the entire album. Not one.

Perhaps thanks to a background in writing for theatre, Fullbrook is a storyteller – and a significant one at that. Her characters, such as the residents of the ’Adelphi Apartments’, whose loneliness she expresses in heartbreaking detail (“At night she read Cannery Row before saying goodnight to the highway below”) are as real as many in literature. And the atmosphere of Running Through The Night (“coat tails flying in the streetlight”), which needs barely more than a note to express a world of heartache, feels akin to a Graham Greene novel.

As Some Were Meant For Sea finally gets its UK release, Fullbrook is recovering from a serious motorcycle accident in Zanzibar which left her, at least temporarily, in a wheelchair. Maybe that’s something those of us not blessed with her wanderlust or Father Carli’s sense of adventure will ever have to experience. But neither will we produce an album of such simple, devastating beauty as Some Were Made For Sea.

Words: Ali Mason