For my first album review, I have decided to give a track by track analysis over what I feel is my top album of 2012. That would be Canadian duo Megan James and Corin Roddicks’s first effort in Shrines. Collectively they are know as Purity Ring and although that would not be a top pick by for a group name, the music they have been able to produce has left me awestruck after only one listen. If you have never heard them before, check out the album here, give it a listen and try to compare it to something you have heard before. I honestly cannot think of a single group they remind me of and that is usually a good thing more times that not. You will get a combination of soothing melodies, creative lyrics (I read that many of James’s lyrics are used from poetry she has done), and some hard hitting beats that make for an outstanding effort that is impossible not to at least respect, given the musical complexity and how Roddick ties everything together so well. I’ve posted two songs from the album to give you a sample along with my reviews of all other songs on the track. If you like the posted ones as much as I did the first time I hear them, then there will be no other option than to buy the album in the most timely manner possible.
And off we go…
1. Crawlersnout (8.5/10) Crawlersnout gets the record off on the right foot. It gives you a taste of what to expect the rest of the album. I have looked over the lyrics a few times and cannot for the life of me really gather what James is singing about, some type of pleasant sounding animal I suppose. Doesn’t really matter because this song is as good as an example as any for how well James’s vocals and Roddick’s instrumentals blend together. One of my favorite instrumental effects by Roddick is used heavily in this song…the heavily distorted singing voice that I assume is his own or maybe it’s artificially generated. The most chilling example of this is at the 2:41 mark of the song. But the whole thing is so freakin’ epic, it’s not even funny
2. Fineshrine (10/10) Along with its name containing half of the album title, Fineshrine will also provide you with pure musical enlightenment. If you allow it to, that is. I honestly didn’t know what to think the first time I heard it. Seemed like a crazy conglomeration of instrumentals combined with some confusing lyrics (In reality I’m just not sharp enough to decipher James’s messages in her songs). After a only a few listens, I suddenly became obsessed with this track and it became my favorite one on the entire album. Making that declaration was about as easy as picking out my favorite character on Trailer Park Boys (for those unacquainted with the series, you need to get with it real quick). The best parts of the song for me occur at 0:48, which contains a solo for the instrumentals sans the percussion, and then at 2:33 where you get a double dosage of the talents of Megan James. The first is in her lyrics where she proclaims: “But i might see with my chest and sink, Into the edges round you, Into the lakes and quarries that brink, On all the edges round you, round you” which I like better than the more well known lyrics that are “Cut open my sternum and pull, My little ribs around you” The other part is the echoing of James voice in the background. which thankfully continues throughout the rest of the song. Hope you’re still here after all that. Stop reading and slip on the headphones and get taken for a ride by Fineshrine
3. Ungirthed (8/10) Much like Fineshrine, Ungirthed didn’t really do it for me initially. However, it took longer for me to finally appreciate what a great song it is compared to Fineshrine. I think this is because Ungirthed is more zany and all over the place. The first 20 seconds you’re not really sure if what you’re listening to would be considered music. Not music made by humans anyway. But James is the star on the track. Her smooth yet unpredictable pattern of singing is what makes this track a treat. Her voice and Roddick’s beats hit at all the right times (catch the synths at 1:14). This is the first Purity Ring track that was created…I cannot imagine a world without them therefore I cannot imagine this album without Ungirthed
4. Amenamy (6/10) Amenamy is a song that I have progressively liked less and less the more I hear it. It’s a fly track at first (bass/beat at 0:13 is noteworthy) but then it loses momentum after that. James’s vocals are not quite on the same level as the rest of the album (except for one noteworthy snippet at 2:14). Nothing wrong with lyrics either but nothing that caught my interest. This track is a solid effort by the duo but compared to the three songs that came before it, it falls way short of matching up.
5. Grandloves (4.5/10) It is at this point that the album goes on a two song skid. This track features Young Magic which is another foreign electronic group. I assume the guest vocalist is from that group and it is he that drags it down. He appears to be rapping most of his lyrics and his ability in that area is rather low. James shows some vocal range on this track but it cannot save what is easily the my least favorite track on the album. The only part of the song that grabs my attention is the outro which features some pleasant electronics/keyboard.
6. Cartographist (5/10) Oh boy, this song is so hard to get into. It fact, it still hasn’t happened for me and I don’t think it ever will. Mainly due to a lack of uninspiring lyrics (the message I get from it appears to be about living a simplistic lifestyle?) and a beat that doesn’t appeal to me. My hope is that perhaps Roddick was going for a more obscure sound in this one and wanted to keep the album from sounding too similar.
7. Belispeak (8.5/10) YES! Not that I was even remotely questioning the greatness of this album, I must admit, after the last two tracks,I was wanting more. Belispeak begins what is a solid back end of the album. It is short and to the point. But it packs a lot into its three minutes of running time. Funky beats, plenty of well blended electronics, and excellent vocals during the chorus (with the help of some effects, but they clearly enhance the song a ton, @0:55). Belispeak doesn’t have the heavy beats that some of the other good tracks on the album, but it is more surreal and cool. For more beats, check out the remix of the song done with the aid of Danny Brown. Fun take on an already great song. See it here Belispeak II
8. Saltkin (7/10) Saltkin was just okay the first few listens. Roddick’s work is what shines in this one if you pay extra attention to it. He combines some hard hitting beats with multiple different effects that are probably the quirkiest of the all the different ones featured in the album. They fit well in this song and help to build up for a thrilling conclusion (starts @ 2:44) Not a standout track amongst their other work but I’d still take this in a heartbeat over a lot of the garbage that’s on the radio these days.
9. Obedear (9.5/10) Obedear and it’s predecessor Lofticries combine for two of the best electronic songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to in my time here on this earth. The intro of Obedear is pure gold…James vocals and Roddick’s usage of computer in song sets things up nicely and then the bass comes in (@0:38) and just KILLS. This leads to a very danceable beat before shortly pausing to showcase some fine lyrics and then hitting again…(@1:02) The message I get from the lyrics is some type of suffering or hardship they must endure (Tear our skin up out from the bottom, leaves our ankles bare…leaves us plastered to a bed of hairs, We’ll be all coiled up near the bottom, with my chest, unbare it) Don’t even think about leaving my blog and engaging in some other activity without jamming to Obedear First!
10. Lofticries (10/10)-Not even going to try to describe how magnificent this song is through my words because I do not come close to having the writing ability to do it justice. The haunting beat and keyboards along with James singing talents are what make this song perfect. It reminds me of the more special moments in my life. Listening to it for the first time with my headphones was a special moment in itself. I cranked the volume up and zoned out…probably wouldn’t have ever came back if I didn’t have to. The single best part of the album occurs at 2:17 and extends through the end of the chorus. James and Roddick’s vocals unite along with the keyboards create something unearthly (the chilling outro deserves some mention as well @3:09). The song has an element of disturbia to it. It’s open to interpretation, but if you read the lyrics you will gather that the song is clearly about some type of suffering. I consider myself an optimist but I know that not everything (especially music) can have a positive spin to it. That is part of what makes it so special. It is a beautiful song yet it’s message is of something bad, possibly way more horrible than I’d even like to think. But fortunately it comes no where close to ruining it. I’d love to hear your comments after listening to Lofticries
10. Shuck-(3/10) A rather disappointing final track to an otherwise outstanding album. Little imagination and just drags on until in mercifully ends just past the 2 minute mark. I realize that I said Grandloves was the worst song on the album despite being rated a point and a half higher. That is because I don’t really consider Shuck to be a song, period. Just a weird contraption of sounds that sorta sounds like “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin for the last minute or so. Fortunately, this does not come close to tainting the image of what will be one of my favorite bands for many years to come based solely on the strength of this album.
Overall Grade-A. I’m note sure I’ll ever encounter another album I so eagerly anticipated. An album like this has needed to exist for so long