Unearthed: Purity Ring— Shrines
Posted in Unearthed
Holism is the idea that things and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as a sum of its parts. Reductionism is the exact opposite; a whole can be explained by examining the sum of its parts. Purity Ring’s Shrines falls victim to the former method of thinking, but I have little doubt that the general public will bathe it in praise as a result of the latter method of thinking.
I was ecstatic when I finally got my hands on Shrines. “Lofticries” and “Ungirthed” had been out for quite some time, and they rarely found their way out of my general rotation. The two perfectly encapsulate the popular genres of today – from the pumping side-chain compression to the catchy-as-all-hell hooks. Then “Odebear” made its debut and I almost lost my shit. I kept asking myself how on earth this record could make anything but a strong showing with the press. Think about the record from those three singles alone. Corin Roddick is a sound engineer so the production is immaculate and frequencies are cut perfectly. Megan James’ voice is basically angelic when it’s at its best. This was an exciting union for the indie music world. But then why after a month or so of listening do I feel shortchanged by Shrines? Why does it feel empty? Monochromatic and monotonous? Void of any of its preconceived mystery and emotional prowess?
I’m a big proponent of eclectic records. I want the artist to take me somewhere different with each song, and to take me on a journey with the record as a whole. Follow the yellow brick road in a sense – start somewhere foreign and end up somewhere comfortable with each song representing a mini-adventure along the way. With Shrines, I find myself trapped in the same box, unable to experience anything new. This is undoubtedly a product of James and Roddick’s deliberate intent to keep the record uniform. Roddick’s productions, although pristine, feature the same exact bass tone, 808-samples, and shimmering synth lines. There is no transcendence here, no variety. It’s incredibly boring and exhausting to the ears. This style wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the sum weren’t representative of its parts, i.e., if each song sported different feels. But they don’t. They’re all clouded in a similar dark hue thanks to the overly used pitch-shifted vocals and particular reverb spikes.
The other element prevalent throughout the record is a cuddly disposition injected by James’ vocals. I think the dark-meets-potential-happiness vibe is what attracted me to the record in the first place, but James’ vocals come up flat when listened to for almost 40-minutes straight. She can’t seem to conjure up any sort of authentic emotion to convince me that she can feel the music. On top of that, she’s an abysmal lyricist. She recycles imagery and elongates unnecessary passages to conform to lyrical flow. I don’t care how good your production is, if the vocalist can’t add the necessary spark to get the audience to feel the music, it’s over.
Upon a complete listen, Shrines is a disappointment. It’s a contrived work, meant to fool the inexperienced. When listened to on an individual level it’s exciting and promising. This can be easily tested by the public’s enthusiasm over their first few singles. When listened to as a whole, however, it’s monotonous and cliché. Holism wins.