Grouper - Ruins

A rainy walk.

Welcome to this new sub-section Old Tin Cup. I wanted to discover more music and write more about music but I wanted a newsletter dedicated exclusively to this. In comes, Old Tin Cup. The name is from a song called ‘16 Days' by Whiskeytown and as a member of Tinroof, it felt fitting. Instead of me trying to explain what this is exactly, just read ahead and I think by the end of it, you'll get the gist. I was going to post this yesterday but thought I'd use the typical Friday spot to welcome everybody. So let me say, welcome.


Today, it was raining for the first time in a long time. The sky had been begging to break for days and it finally did. Thunderstorms. Rainfall. And every droplet felt like a crash landing. I strangely decided this was the perfect day to put on an album and start Old Tin Cup.

I didn’t know what to listen to but knew I wanted something unfamiliar so I googled ‘rainy day music’ and came across an album I'd never heard of called 'Ruins’ by a band I'd never heard of called ‘Grouper’. Old Tin Cup is a dedication because once that play button has been pressed, there's no going back. No matter how catastrophically bad an album is, I promise you right now, it will be finished. Luckily, this album wasn't catastrophically bad or even slightly bad, it was actually, dope as hell.

The album begins faintly, drums slowly coming into focus, thumping in the distance, mixed with the sounds of nature, almost tribal-esque. Loud but not for the listener. It is a curious beginning. Repetitive and anxiety-inducing but not the bad sort. The sort of anxiety you get when you know shits going to get good and you don't know if you're ready. The chirps behind the drums come with a hiss. And they flow seamlessly into the next.

Clearing introduces a piano and some vocals. The singing is at times barely legible and the crackle and indecisive nature of some of the notes makes this feel like a demo. As if you are in the same room witnessing this magic unfold itself. I think it's important to note at this time that I listen to the music on over-ear headphones and leave the right cup slightly exposed to the outside world and the opening of this record whilst walking through a rainy woodland as I was is fascinating. And that is an understatement. Every snapped twig or resistant mound, every squidge or wingbeat felt part of the music. You get lost in the track 'Clearing' and sometimes it doesn't sound like a familiar language yet you totally understand what the singer is saying. On the first listen, this really stuck out to me:

And maybe you were right
When you said I'd never been in love
How can I explain
Why it's safer when I feel alone

The whole record is haunting but Call Across Rooms feels like an encore to Clearing in the strangest of ways. An extension of a soul drowning in harmonies and ambient sounds. Both tracks are centered around heartbreak and this could be exactly how it would sound if we could manifest heartbreak and put it under a microscope.

Labyrinth is a pure stretched out instrumental with the familiar hiss and crackle from previous tracks. It leads is into lighthouse which introduces new background noises and a perfect balance of vocals. As I sat on the bank and stared into the water I found myself feeling sad but the sort of sad that's fleeting and isn't there to stick around.

The back end of this record consists of another instrumental, Holofernes which feels slightly more uplifting than the rest but not by much.

Holding is probably my favorite track from the record. Failure turned into some beautiful thing. It was the only one I played twice which was naughty and not part of the initial rules but nobody was watching so I thought, why not? It's heart-wrenchingly relatable. This reduced me to rubble:

You only wanted holding and I let my structure fail you”

Despite the rain stopping, the sky remained grey and heavy. And so suddenly a flock of birds flew across it. I can't say with certainty that this is the visualisation they pictured when creating the song but I'd make a sure bet that it was close. The first track suggests heaviness, 'made of metal' whilst through listening to this album you leave feeling as if you're 'made of air'. I wouldn't say this album ends because the closer track feels like an awakening. 'Made Of Air' is an instrumental you'll swear you hear vocals on and then you go back and relisten and there aren't vocals anywhere. It's an eleven minute musical scream. Soft and hazy. The opposite of what you expect a scream to be but a scream it is. Ruins as a whole is a grieving process, recorded and mastered so we know how to grieve. It is a haunting record with contagious ghosts. It's educational in its heartache and knows what it is to look darkness directly in its eyes. I recommend this record during rainfall, darkness, or a mixture of both. Out in nature mixed with the natural sounds. It isn't a record I could listen to in any situation but in the right one, it is spectacular. If you need to feel something or let something go, listen to Ruins by Grouper and you will not regret it. This much, I promise.

A solid four cups out of five

And for those without Spotify: