Written by Christian Bischoff
Three years ago, Purity Ring left listeners everywhere baffled with their debut album, Shrines, which introduced the world to the future of electronic music. The “future pop” duo bewitched critics with their unique brand of earthy, ephemeral dream-pop, and left everyone wanting for more. In the three-year gap between albums, several other bands have followed their lead and taken up the mantle of girl driven electro-pop, most notably Chvrches and the up-and-coming Broods. The genius in Purity Ring’s model has clearly been proven in the subsequent success of the bands that have followed their lead, and the duo’s sophomore effort takes the success of their peers into account.
Another Eternity opens strong, bursting with bright synth notes and heady drum tracks that promise a pop sound more prominent than the first album. The shift in tone from their first effort is immediately recognizable. The first track, “Heartsigh”, already eschews several hallmarks of the debut record, most notably the claustrophobic closeness of Corin Roddick’s sonic landscapes and the ephemeralness of singer Megan James’ vocals. Instead, James’ voice echoes with silvery clarity over soaring synths. The pop influence here is undeniable. The hooks are clearer, the melodies cleaner, and the lyrics are layered on top of the music, a relatively new phenomena for Purity Ring. Gone are the days of vocals buried under levels of mixing. James’ voice rings warm over the entire production, making it significantly easier to sing along to the songs.
The hype that followed Shrines left high expectations for their sophomore effort, and for the most part, these expectations are met. The first three tracks are arguably the strongest on the album, with the highlight being the catchy “Bodyache”. On the album’s second single, “Push Pull,” James sings with a sweetness not unlike Taylor Swift. The parallel between the two vocals is undeniable, as is the debt Purity Ring owes to pop music. The pair doesn’t stray so far as to let their tracks become bubblegum or saccharine. The familiar strangeness that captured the hearts of so many lingers here, caught in lyrics like “you were young and you’d stare/ where my limbs hung far and fair/ make a ladder of what folds/ and climb up in me”
On the whole, the album is solid, colored with very few lackluster moments. “Begin Again” offers a much-needed boost in the middle of the record, signaling a transition from the brighter moments of the album to a darker tone. “Dust Hymn” borders on EDM at points, with heavy synth and drum crescendos undertones by a driving bass. “Flood On The Floor” and “Sea Castle” are the lowest notes on the album, as both lose the warmth and nuance that earlier songs held. In her last act, Megan James is incandescent, her lilting whispers bringing fragility reminiscent of Shrines’ closing track, “Shuck.” Collectively, the album succeeds because of the familiar darkness that lingers under the surface of every song. Aerial synths disguise the more sinister storyline revealed in the lyrics, the tale of a volatile love affair that is all consuming (“watching me is like watching the fire / take your eyes from you” from “Repetition”) and cosmic (the planar love described in the first single, “Begin Again”).
Another Eternity is at once both a departure and a continuation, offering the beloved anatomical lyricism of Megan James infused with newfound anthemic themes reminiscent of popular dance tracks. The innocence and sugary-sweet vocals offered by James mask the darker, more mournful tone of the lyrics. In their second album, Purity Ring overcomes the sophomore slump, but falls short of the greatness they achieved in their debut.