Shrines — Purity Ring’s debut — has been a long time coming, and the Montreal-based duo have kept us waiting, releasing Internet tracks for over a year to rabidly waiting fans and critics. Three of their songs have earned approval from indie tastemaker Pitchfork, and this year they signed to the prestigious label 4AD, played Primivera festival and headlined shows across North America. After all the anticipation, their album does not disappoint.
Musically, Purity Ring have been rightly compared to the Knife, but they also share qualities with fellow Montreal and 4AD artist Grimes. It’s grim electro-pop, noir-with-a-smile. “I’ll stick red toothpicks in my dirt-filled heart,” sings Megan James on “Grandloves,” in a deceptively feminine voice. Lyrically, the album is full of eye sockets, dead birds, sweet flesh and skulls, all while Corin Roddick’s electronic beats roll like a bent bicycle wheel: disorienting, but with momentum.
Most of the praise for this band seems understated. Their music is so big and dark that you can crawl inside and live there. If it wasn’t for my iTunes play count, I wouldn’t be able to say how many times I’ve listened to Shrines in a row (three and a half, for the record.) If you need convincing, put on the standout single “Fineshrine.” Its catchy melody is laid over a stuttering beat, casually creating a lush sonic environment.
This is not a varied record, and the lyrical content is almost always violent and tactile. The rhythm rolls and the vocal melodies shift the mood similarly on every song, but that uniformity is warranted by the gorgeous style in which it’s all done.
Now, go see if this album really does live up to all this hype. Then sing along with James: “Get a little closer, let fold/ Cut open my sternum, and pull.” But, maybe you shouldn’t sing that too loud, even if “Fineshrine” makes you want to.