By the time you read this review – and let’s be real, I only have 91 followers on Tumblr and approximately 1,100 on Twitter, so there won’t be droves of folks who do read my words – you will have already consumed a couple dozen other ruminations on this amazing record. Well, at least I hope the other reviews you read about Shrines talked about how awesome its 11 songs are, because if they didn’t, then maybe you are better off visiting my microscopic sliver of the blogosphere.
The first time I heard the music of Purity Ring, I made the unfortunate instinctual reaction to lump them in with bands like Tame Impala – hip new bands with monikers that were alternately terrible or just really awkward. You see, in the cloistered Christian subculture from which I arose 7-8 years ago, the concept of a “purity ring” carried with it very sexual connotations: specifically that of choosing to save oneself sexually for marriage. Thus, I recoiled from the name itself and ignored most mentions of the duo’s name throughout 2011 and early 2012.
That all changed when I heard first strains of “Fineshrine,” the album’s debut single a couple of months ago on satellite radio. My preconceived notions fled my head fairly quickly as I digested the sweet soprano vocals, big bass thumps, skittering snare claps, and quirky synth pads. Forget comparisons to the sun-drenched lo-fi textures of chillwave – this is the next evolotion of post-dubstep that my ears have been seeking ever since James Blake decided to merge Burial with Mount Kimbie.
Hailing from the same relative Montreal electro-pop scene that birthed the majesty that is Grimes, Corin Roddick and Megan James manage to merge the weed-shrouded aesthetic of jj with the cloistered minimalism of The xx. The result is new-school pop music that is overtly spectral and skeletal in ambience, but possesses this rich inner warmth that is rather womb-like. And by that I mean tracks like the aforementioned “Fineshrines” along with “Amenamy,” “Belispeak,” and “Obedear” have this intensely insular quality; yet, they still want to wrap you in a big hug, even if they’re not sure you’ll reciprocate.
This is gloriously pretty music, at least to my ears, as the underbelly of hip-hop happily enters a polygamous relationship with icy Euro-pop vocal melodies and left-of-center EDM. However, the musical script is flipped even further when James’ vocals (already slathered in reverb) are then pitch-bent into near oblivion. Call it a spectacular fusion of Fever Ray, The Knife, Burial, Kode 9, and Robyn, and I’ll probably stop there before tumbling headlong into a sea of hyperbole.
Granted, while most hipsters wouldn’t be caught dead actually dancing to anything, Shrines is made for the dance floor. The synths dance, the bass kicks, and the beat pulses eagerly, but without ever going over-the-top or appearing too unseemly. Don’t be put off by how shy, sweet, and demure the record appears on the surface – that would be the mistake I originally made – instead, rejoice in the sexy bedroom lyrics, mysterious atmosphere, and the catchy melodies that Purity Ring has crafted. And then go share what should be one of the top 10 albums of the year with several of your friends.