The Canadian electronic duo, consisting of vocalist Megan James and producer Corin Roddick, introduced themselves with the song “Ungirthed” in early 2011. A pulsating, shimmering synthpop track, with James’s innocent vocal disguising the gloomy nature of the lyrics. Critically acclaimed, their full length release was highly anticipated, and fortunately, it delivered. Part synthpop, part post-dubstep; the ethereal quality of the duo was a sound so masterfully handled on a compulsively listenable record.
Three years on, the duo have returned with their sophomore effort. It’s unquestionably Purity Ring; James is still enchanting; Roddick’s production is, as-ever, glistening. Yet, there is unquestionably a shift in their approach, and it’s evident as early as the opener. Compare Shrines’s claustrophobic opener “Crawlersout”, to the exposed anthem “Heartsigh” from Another Eternity. It’s more immediate, more accessible, and less ambiguous. Its successor, “Bodyache”, continues this ‘evolution’. The striking radio-friendliness in the track is matched by the strangely uninspired lyrics. Shrines highlight “Fineshrine”, boasted the eerily eloquent hook, “Get a little closer, let fold. Cut open my sternum, and pull my little ribs around you.” Juxtapose this against the hook from “Bodyache”, “I, I, I lied, now I’m lying awake. I, I, I cried ‘til my body ache.” James’s obsession with the human body is still prevalent, but the words are hollow in comparison.
It’s in lead single, and highlight, “Push Pull”, where they first realize this new sound. There is radio appeal, but neither lyrics nor production are sacrificed. Other album standout, “Begin Again”, is the most direct love song they have ever made. “You be the moon I’ll be the earth”, James sings, acknowledging they are forever tangled in an endless affair. Though the relationship may be ever-changing, the orbit is certain.
Though few songs stand apart from the rest, only “Sea Castle” is a particularly ‘weak’ track. The record is still an admirable effort, though when the bar is set so high, one cannot help but feel a little disappointed. Their efforts toward increasing mass appeal have consequently hindered the captivating quality of the band. I’m inclined towards comparing Another Eternity to the James Blake-to-Overgrown aesthetic change, and how he opted for a less polarizing sound. Sometimes, when we get so concerned with maturing, with evolving, we tend to lose all that made us so special in the first place.