Shrines (2012) cemented Canadian duo Purity Ring as one of the best bands that year. It was a huge testament to their talent as they came out as pioneers of the dream pop electronic genre, creating a perfect and addictive balance of dreamy and mysteriousness that was simultaneously enormous and claustrophobic. We gave their sophomore album, Another Eternity (March 3rd via Last Gang Records), a close first listen and the results were slightly jarring.
When Shrines came out, their signature brooding and expansive dream pop paired with childlike melodies was what turned heads and served as a addictive hook for fans. However, the overall sound of Another Eternity demonstrates how Purity Ring has made an obvious move towards mainstream accessible pop. Although every song still sounds clearly like a song by Purity Ring, the duo seems to have traded in their experimental and jarring quality for a safer and sugary experience. Even the lyrics which were once about grandmothers drilling holes into eyelids are replaced with less-striking lines like, “You’ll be the moon, I’ll be the Earth and when we burst, start over, oh Darling, begin again”. Trancy club anthem synths in ‘Stranger than Earth; and the warm sweetness found in tracks such as ‘Push Pull’ and ‘Heartsigh’ demonstrate how the songs on the album seem to not veer far away from the traditional pop structure, making the high and low moments in the tunes seem slightly dampened than what would’ve been expected. Familiar build ups such as in ‘Stranger To Earth’ leads the singer into an odd top 40-esque breakdown with an abundant use of handclaps.
Megan James’ voice is given a bigger role in the new album whereas it was either in balance or engulfed by the voluminous electronic soundscape in Shrines. The best showcase of her sweet sounding melodies is in ‘Repetition’ where her voice ebbs and flows through the gliding bass, synth lines, and soft beats. Her lofty cries that used to contrast the intense instrumentals are now complimentary to a warmer and more pristine style. This shift in roles is a virtue and vice. It draw attention to the soaring melodies but also highlights how the electronic background can sometimes fall short and fails to reach the vocal heights of the singer.
For diehard fans that may be disconcerted with the sudden change in musical direction; Purity Ring still maintains their strengths with hook-driven hip hop-influenced processed beats of Roddick, fluid and airy synths, and familiar lapses into the weird and mysterious. They still hold onto the sugary electronic pop with a touch of unexplained darkness. However, if their current discography were a meal, Another Eternity would be the pre-nibbles before the entrée Shrines.