Purity Ring’s stage name—a reference to the promise rings worn, and often hastily abandoned, by Christian teens as a pledge to chastity—suggests a wry sense of humor, one that was subtly reflected in the macabre lyrics of the Canadian duo’s debut, Shrines. Icy and cerebral, with song titles that evoked the anatomy of cadavers, the album successfully passed off lyrics like “Drill little holes into my eyelids/That I might see you when I sleep” as earnest pledges of devotion. The pair largely eschews such so-called guffaws on their sophomore effort, another eternity, but they display a willingness to more intrepidly embrace the pop underpinnings of Shrines.
Producer Corin Roddick’s tinny percussive loops, pitch-shifted vocal samples, and bass drones continue to make a fine pairing with singer Megan James’s deceptively unassuming vocals. And the obsession with body parts and functions remains: Though the dreamy keyboards and string stabs that open the album suggest something in the order of “Call Me Maybe,” “heartsigh” is more homicidal menace than romantic zeal (“I’ll whisk away your heartsigh/And bury it in mine,” James sighs during the chorus). But songs like “bodyache” and “push pull” wouldn’t sound out of place on Taylor Swift’s zeitgeist-defining 1989. And that’s by design.
Despite the promise of its strong early singles, Shrines ultimately suffered from a lack of variety. another eternity wisely skirts repeating that mistake, dipping its toes in Avicii-style EDM (the catchy, glacial synths of “begin again”) and contemporary R&B (the coolly forlorn “repetition” could easily be sung by Tinashe or FKA twigs). But it’s Purity Ring’s forays into harder urban sounds—like “stranger than earth,” with its sub-bass line, hip-hop drops, and nods to Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You”—that make the biggest impression here. A pair of songs toward the end of the album, “flood on the floor” and “sea castle,” employ towering synths and synthetic handclaps and fingersnaps, respectively, to dazzling effect, the latter recalling Björk at her most fearlessly pop-minded. It’s no wonder Roddick and James can count Katy Perry and Paramore’s Hayley Williams among their faithful followers.