Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.
My Brightest Diamond: All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty, 10/18/11)
My Brightest Diamond: “Reaching Through to the Other Side”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/my_brightest_diamond_-_all_things_will_unwind_-_reaching_through_to_the_other_side.mp3|titles=My Brightest Diamond: “Reaching Through to the Other Side”]
Detroit-based singer/songwriter Shara Worden has long made a career as an indie-pop mercenary. Over the past decade or so, she has lent her talents to Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers, collaborated with The Decemberists, covered Radiohead for an OK Computer tribute album, appeared on numerous compilations (including her excellent cut on Dark Was the Night), and contributed to the chamber ensemble yMusic (which also includes Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, the New York Philharmonic, and Rufus Wainwright).
Clearly, Worden has no problem keeping busy. But even in the midst of her many endeavors, Worden has found time for her indie-pop pet project, My Brightest Diamond, without ever skimping on musical quality or integrity.
Such is the case on All Things Will Unwind, My Brightest Diamond’s third effort on Asthmatic Kitty, as Worden’s talents are as focused and as strong as ever. Indeed, the most engaging aspect of My Brightest Diamond is undoubtedly Worden’s voice. With such grace and skill in tow, it’s no wonder that so many acts enlist Worden as a hired hand. Her voice is so pure, so strong yet delicate, so confident and dynamic, that there is no denying the presence of an immense talent. Swaying between sweet, soft-edged crooning (“She Does Not Brave the War”) to full-on, forceful belt-outs (the latter half of “Be Brave”), Worden knows exactly what she’s doing. The songs swell and sway, kept adrift — and often take flight — thanks to Worden’s cosmic vocal work.
But for people familiar with My Brightest Diamond, this isn’t much of a surprise. Worden’s success came because of her spine-tingling vocals. Her new album, however, also boasts refined musical and instrumental qualities. All Things Will Unwind is suspended by quirky arrangements and orchestrations, serving as a backdrop to Worden’s ever-present voice. And Worden — an educated composer who has turned out several scores for off-Broadway productions — intertwines vocals and music together flawlessly, devising a kind of majestic, orchestral masterpiece.
Yet even with the heavy orchestral influence, there is still much room for variation and experimentation on All Things Will Unwind. “In the Beginning” starts with Andrew Bird-esque finger-picking before breaking into fluttering wind instruments and Sufjan-esque arrangements. And “Ding Dang” experiments with varied percussive approaches. Even vocal themes vary, from political musings on the excellent, faster-paced “High Low Middle” to the endearing “I Have Never Loved Someone,” written for her newborn son. There are dueling vocals on “Everything is in Line” and elegant, sweeping strings on standout track “Escape Routes.” All of these variations keep you guessing what surprise the next track will bring.
When all is said and done, All Things Will Unwind clearly stands as a thing of beauty. There is a heartfelt genuineness permeating each song, and the culmination of strong musical prowess, intense lyrics, and vigorous vocals make it My Brightest Diamond’s best effort yet. With talents like these, Worden should remain a very busy woman for years to come.