Posted on January 11th, 2012 (7:59 pm) by Bradley Hartsell

The word has been out for a while on what critics crave in analysis of new albums. We want pop music filtered through unbridled imagination. If you can throw your finest cutlery against the wall to the tune of "Hey Jude," you're guaranteed at least an 80 on IYS. The opening track on All Things Will Unwind, "We Added it Up," is the late Christmas present that FedEx lost in the schrapnel of packages, delivered right onto my iTunes. On "We Added it Up," My Brightest Diamond (aka Shara Worden) croons with her hushed, smokey voice and pulsating acoustic guitar riff, ala Sharon Von Eten, Feist, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lana Del Ray, Jane "Female Pop-Folk Artist" Doe. Worden's verses, however, are punctuated with lively bursts of baroque augmentation. Her film score mini-orchestra gives the song blossoming tones; combined with her wonderful descending melody, they make the song both a pop gem and a singular work of refreshing clarity. Maybe the melody is Feist-heavy, maybe the guitar riff is more or less background noise used thousands of times before, but there are three terrific hooks, accompanied with a deft classical arrangement boasting a high degree of difficulty. I just hadn't heard anything quite like it in a long time. A job so well done, madam.

"We Added it Up" is the strongest song, but its template is the one most favorable to Worden. When Worden is direct and engaging a pop persona, paired with such elegant instrumentation (like Andrew Bird but more), she sounds like she might be sitting to the immediate righthand side of Joanna Newsom in Holy Chambers of female performers. The subsequent "Reaching to the Other Side" examines the haughtier side of the aforementioned template, but it works because it she seems bound by the confines of pop melody. Worden, however, is guilty of too often being melodically enigmatic--draped too far into the depth of the baroque veils. "In the Beginning" sounds very much like it could be a score to something titled "The Sights of Spring," which is only to suggest the instrumentation is slightly more indulged on mandolin strings and clarinet reeds than usual, but the problem arises when Worden forgets her role as pop shepherd. Her vocals are far too ingratiated into the flightless haze of classical music, and as a result, the song comes off way too overdone. "Escape Routes," however, brings back the stuttering acoustic guitar and she again sounds like a pop savant (she regained her Feist, Van Eten swagger). This is how to maximize the litany of strings and woodwinds--sing over them like they aren't there, as if it were just a guitar and a tambourine.

Worden does this fruatrating zig-zag throughout the duration of the album. Great stuff, Shara! Uh, Shara what happened? Hey, killer stuff!. Not to pigeonhole Shara into only being compelling at one particular facet of this musical hybrid, but in this case, it's simply the truth. The good Shara sounds as if she wrote a killer melodic folk song on acoustic guitar and then placed a sophisticated score on top of it; the middling Shara sounds as if she is singing over top of the string arrangement after the fact, to which she gets too wrapped up in the boundless nature of such music. The difference is night and day between "Be Brave" (great song) "She Does Not Brave the War" (boring and otherwise nonimpactful). My Brightest Diamond is maddeningly on the perch of exceptionality but Worden needs to reconcile her considerable gifts as a singer-songwriter with her obvious want to be the sophisticated baroque belle.

Track List:
1. We Added it Up
2. Reaching Through to the Other Side
3. In the Beginning
4. Escape Routes
5. Be Brave
6. She Does Not Brave the War
7. Ding Dang
8. There's a Rat
9. High Low Middle
10. Everything is in Line
11. I Have Never Loved Someone the Way I Love You

My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind, Shara Worden
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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