Wilsen are the Brooklyn-based trio of Tamsin Wilson (guitar/vocals), Johnny Simon Jr. (guitar), and Drew Arndt (bass).Ruiner is the second album, follow-up to 2017’s I Go Missing In My Sleep.
With producer Andrew Sarlo (Bon Iver, Big Thief, SASAMI) at the helm, Wilsen’s new album Ruiner dissolves both the heavy reverb and ethereal moments found on their first recording by instead letting the band’s essentials - drums, bass, guitar, and vocals - have centre stage. In the album’s opening moments, you might hear a knotted wash of guitars and Wilson softly humming, for a very brief moment returning you to their dreamscape but sharply, a driving rock rhythm comes into focus and so too does a revitalised band.
"Making this record was somewhat of a coming of age process,” Wilson explains.“We're getting older and becoming more deliberate, less precious, less measured. Overthinking less and trusting instincts more.”
Although Wilsen haven’t lost their fragility entirely, on Ruiner they mainly use bolder sounds and play with gritty textures and jarring grooves. See ‘Birds II’ which centres on a piercing guitar line or the crunchy ‘Down’ which is powered by a riotous percussion section. Wilsen are moving with purpose towards something, not away from it.
For Wilson, she’s moving towards self-acceptance, “I have an inherent shyness,” she says. “I guess I'm acknowledging and finding a way with shyness as I get older.” Throughout the record, Wilson comes to terms with her many sides including her introversion and her inner monster which the album title refers to on ‘Feeling Fancy’, Wilson, with her distinctively hushed vocals overpowering the track’s clamorous instrumentals, offers listeners a powerful, and celebratory, declaration, “Quiet’s not a fault to weed out.”
When writing the lyrics, Wilson says that she trusted her instincts and “seized whatever emotion was happening at the time and ran with it.” The songs, as a result, are Wilson’s most honest; her openness is especially noticeable on the record’s quieter tracks when Wilson is alone with her guitar; “I woke up in a life not mine,” she murmurs on the spellbinding closer ‘Moon’.
But even in the loudest moments of Ruiner, Wilson doesn’t retreat into cacophony. She maintains her vulnerability and beautifully captures intimate moments like the brief peace found in a pair of eyes across the room or the exhausted resolution of a relationship.
“It’s so dramatic, isn’t it?” laughs Wilson about the title Ruiner. “Another option was ‘Worthless’,” she jokes. But despite the air of melodrama, Ruiner aptly characterizes the process Wilson and the band took to make their album: they had to destroy the walls they built to reveal their authentic selves.