Despite insisting that Purity Ring‘s Shrines will be forever linked in my memory to a bout of food poisoning when I reviewed the album last year, the association hasn’t held a year on. I remember being sick, and I definitely remember the record, but the two have been cleanly separated. So too my initial enthusiasm for Shrines, a record I really gushed over last July. In the ensuing year, other albums caught my attention and admiration more, to the point where Purity Ring weren’t contenders for my Polaris Music Prize ballot at all. That clearly wasn’t the case for some of my fellow jurors, as Shrines now sits among the top 10, so in revisiting the record, I really tried to focus on what it is that sets it apart for the records I had championed that didn’t get a nod or nomination this year.
What I’ve found in going back to Shrines is that much of what I loved about it last year still holds true. It is on the samey-same side song to song, but after a single play through from start to end, it’s clear the consistency of the songwriting is what makes it a cohesive album-as-a-whole. While it may not have the semblance of a narrative arc like some of its competitors, Shrines is nonetheless a the kind of record that benefits from beginning-to-end plays.
Megan James and Corin Roddick have created a Frankenstein’s monster of a record, pieced together with random references to body parts and shot through with electrical charges that sputter, jolt, and breath life into the songs. I fear that the ubiquitous “Fineshrine” may have soured some from the record as a whole; until you get past it, that song sticks out like a sore thumb from the others. The repeated listening allows it to blend in with its natural surroundings, and gives great tracks like “Saltkin” and “Ungirthed” the chance to shine.
And shine Shrines does. Like METZ last week, Purity Ring’s debut long player may not have made the cut of my personal top 10 list, but I cannot deny that it is an impressive first album all the same. It’s a long shot to win, but a worthy nomination.
Tags: Polaris Music Prize, Purity Ring