Album Review: Purity Ring – Shrines

posted on Jul.10, 2012

Purity Ring
Hailing From: Montreal, Canada
Release Number: Debut
Genre: Synth pop
Label: 4AD

I haven’t been as excited for a debut album in a while. In today’s music climate, a band seems to release their debut album only a few months after they first pop onto the scene. Purity Ring took their time, however, releasing their first single (“Ungirthed”) back in the very beginning of 2011. A year and a half later, their debut is finally released and it’s one of the most fully realized debut albums in a while. It’s rare that a band hits the ground running right away, but Purity Ring seem to have done it with Shrines.


The album doesn’t differ that much from the few songs that were released before (all of which make an appearance here). If you’ve heard any of them, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Even though the band has a fairly obvious formula to their songs, that formula is executed well enough that it works over eleven songs. While it would definitely be best to shake it up on their second release, for their debut it works. And there’s enough variation here (see the Young Magic sample on “Grandloves” and the seemingly structureless “Cartographist”) that the album never seems boring.

Purity Ring is made up of two members: Corrin Roddick does most of the production and Megan James does the vocals. Neither takes precedence over the other. With a lot of production heavy synth-pop, the vocals seem to take a backseat but James’ vocals are potent, albeit a little abstract. Roddick knows exactly when to showcase the lyricism. “Grandloves”, which is pretty muddled throughout, completely clears up as James sings “I’ll stick red toothpicks in my dirt-filled heart” and the song suddenly makes a lot more sense after that. Songs like “Fineshrine” and “Shuck” allow the lyrics to breathe.

Purity Ring seems to exist in it’s own realm, mixing fantasy and emotion, witch house and straight pop. Shrines is a record that is very of the current musical landscape and the band’s sound wouldn’t be possible in any other year but 2012.  On their Facebook, the band refers to themselves as “future pop” and it’s not hard to imagine songs like “Saltkin” or “Ungirthed” being played in some club in the year 3000.

I’m excited, if a little hesitant, to see where the band takes their sound going forward. While effective this time around, the record does utilize a lot of the same tricks repeatedly and if they want to expand their horizons, Purity Ring is going to need to reinvent themselves next time around. Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for that but, until then, Shrines is a great showcase for this extremely talented young band.

– James Rettig, Program Director

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