Purity Ring “Shrines” (4AD)
Megan James and Corin Roddick, the Edmondton, Alberta, duo known as Purity Ring, emerged last year with “Ungirthed,” a single that positioned the act as a sweet counterpoint to Sleigh Bells' flamethrower combination of indie songcraft and Dirty South beats. Indeed, Purity Ring creates relentlessly pretty sonic uplift on its full-length debut, “Shrines,” but the relatively brief 38-minute album plays like 11 iterations of the same idea, with precious little variance beyond the duo's initial amalgam of 1980s synth-pop, crunk rhythms and windshield-rattling basslines.
“Shrines” begins promisingly with the ominous lyrics and sugar-smacked melody of “Crawlersout,” then segues into the nearly identical-sounding and similarly creepy “Fineshrine” (“You make a fine shrine to me”), and the same hits keep coming. There is an undeniable allure to this musical cocktail: While indie musicians have mined hip-hop for inspiration since New Order hired Arthur Baker to produce “Confusion,” Purity Ring isn't merely grafting the beats onto its sound — they are integral to it. The combination has potential and, for a few listens, it can be intoxicating.
But “Shrines” does not hold up under repeated exposure, mainly because James and Roddick fail to fill the album with distinct, discrete songs beyond “Crawlersout” and “Ungirthed.” The one song that moves beyond the formula is “Grandloves,” a duet featuring Isaac Emmanuel of Young Magic. Emmanuel's vocals feel like they were layered into the track in postproduction and sound like a put-on — it's posturing that unfortunately calls to mind the faux-hop of Karmin. “Shrines” proves unquestionably that the duo has a good sonic starting point, but so far, Purity Ring is running in place.
— George Lang