Shrines (album)

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Purity Ring - Shrines.png
Studio album by Purity Ring
Released July 24, 2012 (2012-07-24)
Length 38:20
Label 4AD
Purity Ring
Purity Ring chronology
Another Eternity
(2015)Another Eternity2015
Singles from Shrines
  1. "Ungirthed"
    Released: April 12, 2011[4]
  2. "Obedear"
    Released: April 24, 2012[5]
  3. "Belispeak"
    Released: May 29, 2012[6]
  4. "Amenamy"
    Released: September 23, 2013[7]

Shrines is the debut studio album by Canadian electronic music duo Purity Ring, released on July 24, 2012 by 4AD.[8] 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".

The album spawned four singles: "Ungirthed", "Obedear", "Belispeak", and "Amenamy". A music video for "Lofticries" was released on Pitchfork's YouTube account.[9] Shrines was listed 24th on Pitchfork's staff lists top 50 albums of 2012[10] and 14th on the readers poll.[11] The album was named a shortlisted nominee for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize on June 13, 2013.[12]

Background and composition[edit]

The first song the duo did together was "Ungirthed". They did not intentionally plan Purity Ring to be a long-term project: "it was just something to do. We were really happy with it though, and the response was amazing, and then the next tracks came together and we thought, hell, why don't we make an album out of this."[13] Megan described the process of making Shrines as very long, "intense and intensive".[13] Corin reasoned that "we needed to get the album done, and let's say whilst we like to perfect things in the studio, we work best with a deadline."[13] They described themselves as perfectionists and an "album band", in that "we want to get every track right, we want each thing we release to be as good as everything else. What is the point in flooding out music that doesn't satisfy us? Or worse, lets the listeners down?"[13]

Megan was living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Corin residing in Montreal producing his instrumentals, and how far apart they were at the time, 1300km, was a part of developing each song, as it put newness and freshness to the tracks.[13] Corin described the process of making the instrumentals: "Late nights, sometimes I'll stare at my laptop for hours; sometimes I'll take an idea, a five second snippet that I'll run with over and over and over".[13] Corin then sent it to Megan for her to sing a rough vocal sketch over it, with Corin's waiting leading to excitement and anticipation of not knowing what the final song would sound like when Megan sent it back.[13] He described what he would do with a song after Megan sent it back: "I'll 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."[14]

Corin produced Shrines using Ableton with a very small and consistent set of presets, including those from the Arturia software synthesizer replication of the Minimoog.[14] Plug-ins by Waves Audio were used for compression, with a lot of side-chaining used on the synths to "invisible" kick drums: "it ducks and then there's nothing there – just creating big, empty spaces."[14] He announced in an August 2011 interview that the album was 90%, and hoped it would be released by January 2012.[15]

The main theme of Shrines is self-empowerment; apart from one explicit reference towards males in "Ungirthed", the lyrical content, taken directly from Megan's journals, is mostly 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.[13] Purity Ring felt that too many people at the time acted childish and needed to live in a "water downed version" of the world they lived in: "Quite often though, 'protecting kids' is a synonym for preventing them from experiencing. Our songs aren't explicit, but they deal with adult or grown-up issues."[13]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 76/100[16]
Review scores
Source Rating
The A.V. Club A-[17]
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[18]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[19]
NME 9/10[20]
Pitchfork 8.4/10[21]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[1]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[22]
Spin 7/10[23]
Tiny Mix Tapes 2/5 stars[24]

Shrines garnered generally favorable reviews from critics upon its July 2012 release. As of January 2016, the record holds an aggregated weighted mean of 76 out of 100 based on 37 reviews,[16] while on the website AnyDecentMusic?, it holds an aggregate 7.8 out of ten, also a weighted average.[25] The A.V. Club's Leor Galil described 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.[17] Kendah El-Ali, in her review for Filter, opined this juxtaposition to be "at least genuinely interesting," but "falling short of fear-inspiring, if that's what they were after."[26]

NME critic Hayley Avon said 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." She concluded her review with calling the record a "euphoric treat in its own right, made all the more thrilling by its heady potential."[20] Pitchfork critic Mark Richardson shared a similar conclusion: "the compulsively listenable Shrines stands quite well on its own. Most bands never manage a statement this forceful." Awarding it a "Best New Music" label and describing each song as "subtly different versions of a single, near-perfect idea",[21] he called the lyrical content "vivid and striking, even if it takes some work to parse them out. And the contrast between their bloody earthiness and music born of 1s and 0s gives the record an appealing push/pull and provides the album with some additional staying power."[21]

Drowned in Sound's Josh Suntharasivam thought that, regardless of the lyrical content or typical composition, "there is something so deft about this LP that you can't help but feel that it is more than merely a by-product of its kooky genesis. You want to believe that James and Roddick have really, consciously, created something that comes alive with its own self-doubt."[27] Dave Simpson of The Guardian recommended the album to those looking for a "more electro-based companion" of Vision by Grimes,[19] 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."[28]

Allmusic journalist Heather Phrases called Shrines a "fine debut, full of lighter-than-air synth pop that manages to be dark, sparkling, innocent, and knowing all at once."[2] Jessica Hopper of Spin said that with the album, the duo were "conversant in that indie-darling world, but their vibe is proper freak-you", something which the indie genre had failed to do for far too long. She also said, "Part of what makes the album so effortlessly listenable is that all the synthetic bump isn't burdened with the patina of indie shame; it isn't scuzzed-up or self-consciously lo-fi. Roddick carefully engages EDM clichés and structures, but doesn't kick them up to neon-alert levels. Nevertheless, his ambition is palpable." She said in conclusion, "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."[23]

In more mixed reviews of the album, 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", saying that the album "handful of some of the finest offerings Planet Pop can muster in 2012, yet as an "album experience" it ultimately fails to merit a new religion."[29] A Slant Magazine reviewer disliked 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." He considered the worst part of Shrines Roddick's use of chopping James' vocals, and overall, he felt the duo was "trying to do too much, and true to the less-is-more adage, the busier Shrines gets, the emptier it feels."[22]

Negative reviews of Shrines criticized the LP for only remaking tropes and cliches of indie electropop and contemporary music. Patric Fallon of the magazine XLR8R complimented the album's skilled production, but disliked its combination of trap and dubstep elements with bright vocals a la the acts of Saddle Creek Records and K Records which resulted in them sounding like Swedish duo The Knife without their emotional depth and genuine mystery.[30] Ben Sullivan suggested to Purity Ring, in his review for Tiny Mix Tapes, that "if they don't love the sounds they're imitating, shuck the soundbanks, strip down the mix, and let your vocalist dabble in the weird 90s. And maybe write some postcards to Phil Elverum."[24] Robert Christgau rated the album as a one-star honorable mention, writing "Displaced soprano asks musical question: is this home or exile."[18]

The album peaked at number 100 on the UK Albums Chart.[31] In the United States, it reached number 32 on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart.[32][33] It had sold 90,000 copies in the US as of February 2015.[34]


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.[35]

Publication Rank Ref
Beats per Minute 21 [36]
Consequence of Sound 28 [37]
DIY 21 [38]
Exclaim! 41 [39]
Fact 46 [40]
The Fly 15 [41]
Gigwise 25 [42]
NME 50 [43]
Pazz & Jop 45 [44]
Pitchfork 24 [10]
PopMatters 71 [45]
Spin 9 [46]
Spinner 23 [47]
Stereogum 29 [48]
Time Out London 24 [49]
Under the Radar 25 [50]

Track listing[edit]

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

No. Title Length
1. "Crawlersout" 3:10
2. "Fineshrine" 3:29
3. "Ungirthed" 2:48
4. "Amenamy" 3:27
5. "Grandloves" 4:33
6. "Cartographist" 4:48
7. "Belispeak" 2:58
8. "Saltkin" 3:25
9. "Obedear" 3:29
10. "Lofticries" 3:59
11. "Shuck" 2:09
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.[51]



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