Born from the ashes of Gobble Gobble (now known as Born Gold), Megan James and Corin Roddick have amassed quite a cult following since splitting from GG/BG in 2010. Self-releasing five singles leading up to the release of Shrines, fans have been eager to gobble up this musical gold. Does Shrines live up to the hype? Can Purity Ring do no wrong? With a resounding 3.5 stars, Rabbits Black things Shrines is pure gold.
(Author’s Note – I promise to stop the puns here.)
At the tender ages of 24 and 21, respectively, Megan James and Corin Roddick have created an album that combines grooving R&B and hip-hop-influenced beats with modern electronic pop. To tie up the package, James croons often-dark lyrics in a syrupy sweet voice. In “Fineshrine”, James asks to “cut open [her] sternum and put [her] little ribs around you.”
“Fineshrine” – the most recently-released song off Shrines
Since the release of “Ungirthed” in the beginning of 2011, fans of dream pop and witch house have created obsessive compulsions surrounding Purity Ring. After the transition from Gobble Gobble to Born Gold, it seemed as if Purity Ring was able to build on what was great about Gobble Gobble and leave behind what’s bad about Born Gold. The duo masterfully combine elements of modern electronic music (including tastefully placed and subtle wubwubwubs) with traditional norms of pop music. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.
But Shrines in its entirety is much more than just shiny pop. It represents what should be the future of pop music: a sleek combination of clever songwriting that combines steady rhythms with catchy beats and a well-(auto)tuned voice. Clocking in at 11 tracks, Purity Ring kept 6 songs hidden from the public until the album’s release.
“Ungirthed”, “Belispeak”, “Lofticries”, “Obedear”, and “Fineshrine” all hit heavy rotations once the band posted the songs. Each of the five previously-released tracks held their own, earning spots in my endlessly repeat a single track repertoire. So the question remained. Would the rest of Shrines stand up to the hype, or did the duo bait us with the five best tracks, saving the balance of the album for their mediocre ventures?
The first official single from Shrines, “Obedear”
“Crawlersout” opens up Shrines with an electronic hum and quiet melody that slowly blooms into the full song when James enters with the first lines of the album. The song is emblematic of the album as whole: It builds steadily, just as has come to be expected from Purity Ring, falters slightly in the middle, but then ends on a strong note. To put it simply, detailing the track(s) I don’t find enthralling is easier than detailing why the rest of the album warrants you shelling out a few dollars. Upon the first few listens of Shrines, two tracks stood out to me as clear ugly ducklings: “Grandloves (feat. Young Magic)” and “Cartographist”.
“Grandloves” carries an awkward beat too slow to command much attention; a sound described only as “something dropping on a wood floor” chimes in the background throughout the entire song. To top off the awkward beat, Young Magic’s voice comes in unexpectedly and is jarring compared to the steady syrup streaming from James’ vocal arrangements. But after a few more listens, “Grandloves” began to grow on me.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for “Cartographist”. Perhaps Purity Ring buried this dragging track in the very middle of the album because they recognized its weaknesses. It sounds out of place with the rest of Shrines, as if Roddick wanted a stripped down song that displayed James’ voice. The combination didn’t work well, and there are few redeeming moments through the entire nearly-five minute track. Its weaknesses are only highlighted when “Belispeak”, the strongest song from Purity Ring to date, explodes into its captivating beat as soon as “Cartographist” ends.
Now that Shrines has proven that Purity Ring can pull together a great album, can the duo live up to their stellar expectations in a live show? They kick off a scattered tour this fall, stopping at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on September 3. Live videos of Purity Ring display some weaknesses in James’ stage presence. I’ll chalk that one up to youth of the performer and her career. Here’s hoping they can polish off the live act before kicking off a major tour.
Snapshot: “Belispeak” – the strongest song of the five pre-Shrine releases, and the strongest track of the album. It captures all the best elements of Purity Ring.
~ Purity Ring’s debut release Shrines is a strong display of electronic pop done right. With Corin Roddick’s rhythmic beats highlighted by captivating hooks backing the soothing-sweet vocals of Megan James, it’s worth shelling out for an archive-worthy digital copy. Purchase the album here!