If you are one of the lofty intellectual types who descended to comment on Justin’s completely serious, 100% objective analysis of Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful, then I come bearing an exciting message from the future— Purity Ring is the music you will listen to when you are all grown up, in your work-a-day life as an astronaut princess (after you have discovered that The Postal Service Exists, for Fuck’s Sake, and possibly after coming off a marathon bender with The Knife).
For clarity’s sake, I mean to compliment Purity Ring. For further clarity’s sake, listening to Owl City makes me want to hunt and kill men for sport. Why continue to pick on poor Mr. Young? Because Owl City is, honest-to-dog, one of the first things I thought about when I listened to Shrines, the debut album from Montreal duo Purity Ring— In fact, every plucky youngster with a copy of GarageBand and Give Up on his MacBook should sit up and take some fucking notes, because Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how you do your uplifting synth-pop correctly.
Observe: Non-Spotify link here.
It’s like hearing the voice of a child ghost roll and stutter over a jumble of half-dreamed nursery rhymes, and for all of singer Megan James’ talk of split bodies and torn out hearts, it’s unexpectedly uplifting. The album’s lyrical focus is on the body— ripping open interiors, bearing hearts and other organs, flushing out the nooks and crannies. Without James’ nearly pre-adolescent voice, none of this would work half as well. In “Fineshrine,” James sings “Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you.” It’s easy to imagine a line like that issuing from the mouth of say, Ben Gibbard or Karin Dreijer Andersson, but it would be somber and sad from the former, and downright creepy from the latter. Here, it comes off as a warm invitation. (Side note. There’s a two-word genre description floating around on certain websites that I promised myself I wouldn’t use when talking about Purity Ring— hint: it rhymes with “kitsch mouse“— but when you literally rhyme the word “boil” with “toil” in a song, it’s hard not to give a just a little credence to the meaningless-genre-mongers.)
With Corin Roddick’s instrumentals, you get all the electronic hand-claps and snaps of an Usher slow jam, but with the added bonuses of Knife-like vocal screwiness (making James’ voice alternate between little girl and GLaDOS) and red light / green light rap tempos. Some of this might be a bit repetitive if Shrines didn’t clock out after a just-right 38 minutes (though a few songs have me doing the same double-take I do whenever I hear Cake: “wait a minute, are there noisemakers, trumpet, and John McCrea saying ‘yeah’ in every song?“). In fact, “Lofticries” aside, the few weaker tracks (two, by my count) on this album are the ones that push past the 4-minute mark. Speaking of weaker tracks, whoever the hell the guy I’m not bothering to look up whose guest vocals show up on “Grandloves,” go the hell away and never come back please, you’re fucking up the magic.
If you are not convinced after this, perhaps Purity Ring is not for you. Non-murgle-blurgle here.
That’s fine. Imaginative, fantastic pop from the Astral Plane isn’t for everyone. Just go listen to the new Future of the Left, it’s probably more your speed. What’s that, you don’t like Future of the Left?
I think it’s time for you to go.