Shrines (album)
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Shrines Album
Purity Ring - Shrines.png
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 20, 2012 (2012-07-20)
Purity Ring chronology
Another Eternity
Singles from Shrines
  1. "Belispeak"
    Released: May 29, 2012
  2. "Fineshrine"
    Released: August 20, 2012

Shrines is the debut studio album by Canadian electronic band Purity Ring, which was released through 4AD and Last Gang Records on July 20, 2012. Purity Ring recorded the album separately at home over several months, sending their parts via email. Shrines has been described as an electropop, synth-pop and dream pop album, incorporating hip hop inspired production and "striking" lyrics. It was produced by Purity Ring, with additional production by Jon Hopkins.

The album, which was recorded following two acclaimed singles by vocalist Megan James and producer Corin Roddick, has been described as "personal" and deals with themes of self empowerment and love using graphic, "gory" imagery.

To promote Shrines, Purity Ring released the promotional single "Obedear", followed by two singles "Belispeak" and "Fineshrine" to critical acclaim. The album debuted at number 32 on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart. It has sold 90,000 copies in the US as of February 2015. The album received positive reviews from most critics, many of whom praised its contrast between slick pop production and graphic lyrics. It appeared on several year-end critics' lists, and was nominated for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. Pitchfork retrospectively described Shrines as "a definitive time capsule for the sound of 2012 (and 2013)".

Background and recording

In the late 2000s, Corin Roddick began producing his own music but, deciding against using his own vocals, began looking for a vocalist. Roddick had known Megan James for years, meeting at one of James' solo shows when they were teenagers. They both frequented the Edmonton music scene, and had played in bands such as Gobble Gobble together. He asked Megan James to write lyrics and sing over a track, the instrumental of which he sent her over email. The song would became "Ungirthed", which they posted online in January 2011. It caught the attention of music blogs, and, following another single release "Belispeak", led to them getting signed to record label 4AD in April 2012.[2][3][4] The tracks were met with acclaim by critics, who compared them to other electronic acts such as The Knife and Burial.[5][6]

Beginning work on Shrines, the band said that while they are "perfectionists", intending for "[every]thing we release to be as good as everything else", they work best with a deadline in place.[7] Like the previous two singles, the album was recorded separately as James lived in Halifax and Roddick in Montreal. Roddick would send instrumentals over to James via email to record her parts over. James described the process of making the album as very long, "intense and intensive".[7] He stated that after James sent a vocal recording over he would "often need to rearrange them to create a focal point. And that might mean moving something else that was underneath to a different part of the song, or just removing it altogether. I'm not very precious with any part of any track when it comes to trying to make it into an actual song; if it's taking up too much space, I'll gladly get rid of it."[8] Roddick described that when creating the instrumentals he would "take an idea, a five second snippet that I'll run with over and over and over".[7] They announced in an August 2011 interview that the album was 90% done, and hoped it would be released by January 2012.[9]

Music and lyrics

Shrines is influenced by hip hop artists, while critics compared it to electronic producers such as Grimes.[9][10]

James' vocals have been described as "childlike" and "full of wonder".[11] Roddick stated that when producing her vocals, he likes to keep them "clear and present", although they aren't completely unfiltered.[12]

Shrines is built around Roddick's production, which incorporates down-pitched, distorted vocals, side-chained synths and programmed beats.[7][13][8] Side chaining was used to create "invisible" kick drums, Roddick describing that "it ducks and then there's nothing there - just creating big, empty spaces." Shrines has been described by critics as an electropop, synth-pop and dream pop album.[14][15][16] Musically, Roddick, who does all the instrumentals, has said he is influenced by R&B and hip hop on the album, and artists such as Janet Jackson and Soulja Boy.[17][9] The album was produced using digital audio workstation Ableton Live with a very small and consistent set of presets, including those from the Arturia software synthesizer replication of the Minimoog.[8]

The album's lyrics, written by James, deal with themes of self-empowerment, and the album is imagined as being an "intensely personal" and strange narrative about strong, young aspiring female witches who experience and interact in a place without any males as they improve, grow and protect themselves.[7] James' lyrics have been described as "gory", "striking" and "fantastical", drawing comparisons to Brothers Grimm.[18][19][7] The song's titles use portmanteaus of English words,[11] while the album's title comes from the line "Build it into pinnacles and shrines of some / Some ghastly predicament of mind you'll find", from the track "Obedear".[7]

Release and promotion

Corin Roddick (left) and Megan James performing at the Melt! Festival in 2013.

Purity Ring announced the album's release on April 23, 2012, along with the album's first promotional single "Obedear".[20][21] The album's lead single, "Belispeak", was released on May 29, 2012,[22] with a video following two days later.[23] "Fineshrine" was released as the album's second promotional single on June 20,[24] to acclaim from critics, highlighting it as a standout from the album.[25][26] It was followed by a music video released on July 11, 2012.[27] It was released as the album's second single on August 20, 2012.[28] The song was ranked at number 85 on Australian alternative music station Triple J's 2012 Hottest 100 countdown, and was recognized as one of the best tracks of the decade by Pitchfork.[29][30] The song was featured in an advertisement for UK online retailer Very.[31] It was also featured in season 7 of Skins.[32]

To further promote the album, the band embarked on a tour between April and July with Dirty Projectors.[20] A North American tour was announced in May, which began on 26 May 2012 at Sasquatch Festival and ended on 20 September 2012 in Philadelphia, PA.[33] Purity Ring released a "sequel" to "Belispeak" titled "Belispeak II" as a single featuring rapper Danny Brown on October 9, 2012.[34] The following day, another North American tour was announced, featuring support from Young Magic. The tour followed their European tour with Doldrums[35] A video for "Lofticries" was premiered on in November, directed by AG Rojas, who described the video as "a music video exploring the stoicism of psychically connected characters confronted by surreal, climactic moments."[36]

In February, 2013, they released a cover of Soulja Boy's song "Grammy", and announced a spring tour with Blue Hawaii.[37] A remix of "Amenamy" by Jon Hopkins was released on September 23, 2013.[38]

Critical reception and impact

Following the album's release, it debuted at number 32 in the United States on the Billboard 200, number two on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart and number 3 on the Independent Albums chart.[46][47][48] It had sold 90,000 copies in the US as of February 2015.[49]Shrines further entered the UK Albums Chart at number 100.[50]

Shrines received generally favorable reviews from music critics, many of whom commended its unique style and production. At review aggregate site Metacritic, Shrines has an average score of 76 out of 100, based on 37 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39] Leor Galil of The A.V. Club gave the album a rating of A-, describing Shrines as a "knockout", categorizing the group as an outsider of other gory-lyric'd groups thanks to its non-violent themes and honoring them for being able to combine these graphic lyrics with danceable beats.[18] Hayley Avon of NME rated the album 9/10, stating Shrines "could just as easily remain in its closed-circle clique" while being accessible to mainstream listeners, noting that the "music is so slick it sometimes stinks of cash, yet the songs are charming, scuffed at the edges, the childlike melodies accentuated when Megan's voice takes on its youthful tone" concluding with calling the record a "euphoric treat in its own right, made all the more thrilling by its heady potential."[41]

Mark Richardson of Pitchfork awarded the album a "Best New Music" label, saying "the compulsively listenable Shrines stands quite well on its own. Most bands never manage a statement this forceful." Dave Simpson of The Guardian recommended the album to those looking for a "more electro-based companion" of Visions by Grimes,[10] while a review in the sister paper The Observer noted the influences of Shrines to be "of the highest quality (Björk, Fever Ray, Burial), which, at best, bears comparison with them all."[42] Jessica Hopper of Spin gave the a 7/10 saying that "the contrast between Purity Ring's two halves is special and compelling, but Shrines goes over best when Roddick's reverent sound and James' lustful fury synchronize and break you off properly, womb-stem-style."[45]

In more negative reviews of the album, critics criticized the album's repetition and James' vocals. Matt James of PopMatters opined that the record's "familiarity and repetition" somehow try to ruin its "dazzling" lyrical imagery and "divinity here worthy of rapture and reverence", while a Slant Magazine reviewer that the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl vocal qualities" weakens the album's somberness, leading to "an odd and often dissatisfying mix of light and heavy." Robert Christgau rated the album as a one-star honorable mention, writing "Displaced soprano asks musical question: is this home or exile."[51]

Shrines has been retrospectively noted as an influential album on electronic music. In a 2015 article, Pitchfork described the album as "a definitive time capsule for the sound of 2012 (and 2013)". James noted that they had "constantly" heard any artists imitate their style since the album came out.[19]


Shrines was in the top 30 of numerous year-end lists. According to the website Acclaimed Music, it was the 36th most ranked album of 2012, as well as the 173th most ranked of the 2010s.[52]

The album was nominated for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.[69]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Purity Ring, except "Grandloves", written by Purity Ring and Young Magic.

Total length:38:20
Sample credits
  • "Grandloves" contains a sample of "You with Air" by Young Magic.


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Shrines.[70]


Release history

Region Date Format(s) Label Catalogue no. Ref.
Australia[74] 20 July 2012 4AD CAD3218 [74]
New Zealand [74]
Europe [75]
Japan Hostess Entertainment Unlimited BGJ-10153 [76]
Canada 24 July 2012 Last Gang Records 01399 [77]
United States 4AD CAD3218 [78]


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External links

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