Verdict – 8.5
Canadian electronic duo consisting of Megan James and Corin Roddick introduced themselves last year with the song, Ungirthed, early last year, which received high praise and found itself on numerous end of year best-of lists. Instead of rushing the process, the duo took their time to release their debut, and fortunately, the wait was worth it. The part synthpop, post-dubstep and ethereal genre of the album is a sound that is hard to pull off successfully, needing to create a certain vibe otherwise songs fall apart. Shrines feels a lot like one, long song, however that isn’t a bad thing. What the duo have created is a near perfect example of a genre of music, and the songs familiarities to each other never detract from the album.
From the start, the production (handled by Roddick) is fantastic, creating a dark, depressing mood whilst allowing for well-realised synthpop works throughout. What Shrines offer that many rival artists cannot, are the intensity and depth of their lyrics. James, (whose vocals are heavily altered) delivers in every song, and uses themes that are incredibly ambiguous, however, referencing the body (and lust towards), and forms of supernatural beliefs a lot. From the first lyric in the great opener, Crawlersout, “Sea water’s flowing from the middle of my thighs,” to the hook of Fineshrine, “Get a little closer, let fold. Cut open my sternum, and pull my little ribs around you,” the lyrical talent is obvious, and intimate.
The album’s best track is their first single, Ungirthed, their most synthpop-like song on the album, employing a youthful vocal from James, with pulsating waves and synths resonating through the song. Other album highlight is the upbeat Belispeak (with great breakdowns), which continues the ‘lust of the body’ theme with the lyrics, “Grandma my hands have wondered, my little legs are getting weak.” Saltkin, adds to this with the lyric, “The crawling animals will seek all things warm, all things moist, and I will relentlessly shame myself.” A standout is the haunting, Obedear, which has production that sounds like it could just as easily belong to a relentless hip hop anthem, and boasts the strongest chorus in the album, “Oh but dear the sky is low, gather up its harm in gauze with grateful arms.”
There is no point denying that evolution for Purity Ring in the future will be quite a task, and could find themselves struggling to win over people who weren’t previously fond of the duo. But with the undeniable cult following they will accumulate, and the fact that they really don’t need to change anything, success won’t be hard to find, and there is a lot to come from James and Roddick in the future. Few bands can muster the impact of a debut album like Shrines, resulting in one of the most interesting and unique albums of the year.
Top Songs – Ungirthed, Belispeak, Obedear