The project of Canadians Corin Roddick and Megan James, Purity Ring helped define the sound of synth pop in the 2010s and beyond. On 2012′s Shrines, the combination of James’ deceptively innocent soprano vocals and unsettling, often graphic lyrics with Roddick’s adventurous production — which borrowed from R&B and hip-hop as well as more traditional electronic pop — made for a distinctive style that other artists emulated for years to come. Purity Ring have continued to evolve, though, whether they reinterpreted mainstream pop polish in their own fashion on 2015′s Another Eternity, collaborated with Katy Perry on her 2017 album Witness, or mined the shadowy depths of their sound on 2022′s Graves.
Purity Ring’s roots date back to the late 2000s, when Roddick started producing music inspired by the sounds of contemporary R&B and hip-hop. To add vocals to his tracks, he looked to James, a longtime friend and his bandmate in the group Gobble Gobble (which later became Born Gold). At the time, James lived in Halifax, while Roddick was based in Montreal, so they collaborated on their music online. Their first song, “Ungirthed,” arrived in January 2011 to critical acclaim; after the release of their second track, “Belispeak,” Purity Ring signed with 4AD Records in April 2012. That July, the label released the duo’s debut album, Shrines, which garnered further praise for its mix of James’ delicate vocals and Roddick’s sleek production and reached number 32 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. In October 2012, Purity Ring collaborated with Danny Brown on the single “Belispeak II”; the following year, they worked with him again on the Old track “25 Bucks.” Also in 2013, the duo covered Soulja Boy’s “Grammy,” remixed Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” and earned a Polaris Music Prize nomination.
After touring in support of Shrines, Roddick and James began making new music, this time working together in person in Edmonton. Arriving in March 2015, Another Eternity boasted a more streamlined sound and more revealing songwriting. The album peaked at number 26 on the Billboard 200 and reached number 25 on the Canadian Albums Chart, becoming Purity Ring’s first set to chart in their homeland. Remixes of Mew, HEALTH, and Katy Perry tracks followed, and Purity Ring collaborated with the pop star on three songs from her 2017 album Witness. That July, the duo celebrated the fifth anniversary of Shrines’ release by issuing the single “Asido” (pronounced “as I do”), which harked back to the body imagery of their debut album. By 2018, Purity Ring were teasing previously unreleased material; the pair’s searching, subdued third album, Womb, appeared in April 2020 and topped the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Preceded by the 2021 single “soshy,” Purity Ring issued Graves, their first EP — and first release on their own label, The Fellowship — in June 2022. ~ Heather Phares