My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind
by Nathan Goldman (Computer Science/Cognitive Psychology), published October 18th 2011
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Classically-trained singer Shara Worden finds herself making music with other artists so often that it comes as a bit of a surprise that it’s been over three years since she released an album under her own My Brightest Diamond moniker. Listening to her new album, All Things Will Unwind, it’s clear these collaborations have had an impact on her own music.
Clearly the most noticeable difference on the album is the instrumentation; while Bring Me the Workhorse and A Thousand Shark’s Teeth mixed rock and classical influences with Shara’s pristine voice, All Things Will Unwind leaves the rock instrumentation behind and goes deeper into the realm of chamber music. She uses woodwinds, bowed strings, and horns, while also exploring more unconventional instruments, such as metallic percussion in “Ding Dang” and the thumb piano in “Everything is in Line.” The whole album was recorded with the yMusic ensemble, a sextet of multi-instrumentalists who have collaborated with many of the same musicians as Shara (Sufjan Stevens, the National, etc.). Other signs of her collaborations can be seen in lyrics and songwriting. The second track, “Reaching Through to the Other Side” quotes directly from what Shara sings in “Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun,” a track she worked on with Colin Stetson earlier this year. In one of the album’s best tracks, the tense “Be Brave,” she speaks to herself in the third person, singing “Shara, now, get to work / Shara, this is going to hurt,” in a way which feels very reminiscent of the way Sufjan Stevens addressed himself in his song “Vesuvius.”
Yet to attribute all of this album’s quality to her work with other artists is to underestimate Shara’s talent. Her greatest tool has always been her voice, and it’s are no different here. Whether she’s singing the operatic and mournfully beautiful “She Does Not Brave the War,” the lullaby (addressed to her newborn child) of “I Have Never Loved Someone” or the exploration of traditional Americana on songs like “There’s a Rat,” her voice is always captivating. Lyrically, the album takes a strikingly populist stand, inspired by a return to her struggling hometown of Detroit. This slant seems more relevant than ever in the days of Occupy Wall Street, with the titular ‘rat’ that’s eating our cheese being “Lawyers! Bankers! Thieves!” She goes on to critique inequality in the rousing “High Low Middle,” with sharp jabs like “when you’re privileged / you don’t know you’re privileged / when you’re not / you know” and “you’re hungry, yet strangely / you’re working like crazy.” It’s a lesson we would do well not to ignore, on an album which the same could be said for.
Recommended Tracks: Be Brave, She Does Not Brave the War, There’s a Rat, High Low Middle