Beautiful even in its darkest moments, My Brightest Diamond’s newest album, “All Things Will Unwind,” is stunning. With a powerful and operatic voice that soars, whispers and shouts, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden is not far off in comparing her music to a sparkling gem.The sound is classy, sophisticated and gorgeous.
Although she may not be recognized by her band’s name, Worden’s voice may sound familiar. Fans of The Decemberists may recognize her as the voice of “The Queen” from the album “The Hazards of Love.”
Worden is even more closely connected with indie artist Sufjan Stevens. After touring with Stevens as one of his “illinoisemakers” (her role on the tour was the official cheerleading captain), Worden provided background vocals for several of his songs, most notably on his latest album “Age of Adz” in which she takes the lead for a part of the song “Impossible Soul,” singing “Don’t be distracted/ don’t be distracted, no.”
In addition to recording under the same label (Asthmatic Kitty Records) as Stevens, My Brightest Diamond also shares many similarities in sound with his music. Like Stevens’ their music is filled with choirs, guest vocalists and cute, quirky instruments like banjos, flutes, ukuleles and an abundance of orchestral strings. Often classified as an “avant rock” artist, Worden’s style changes with each song. She’s as likely to perform a bluesy, southern feeling number as another that brings to mind images of Edith Pilaf and a war-torn France.
Worden’s voice is the single thread that binds the album together. Although she has been formally trained in opera, Worden knows how to sing to a generation less impressed by the classical style. She hasn’t forgotten how she was trained to use those powerful lungs, but uses that power to show emotion, pain and humanity through her voice. It’s beautiful and lovely.
Much of “All Things Will Unwind” seems inspired by Worden’s new role as a mother. While songs such as “I Have Never Loved Someone” and “Reaching Through to the Other Side” speak almost directly about her son, with lines like “I have never loved someone the way I love you/ I have never seen a smile like yours,” even more songs on the album carries a sweetness that brings to mind a lullaby.
However, that is not to say the album lacks sophistication in its lyrics. Another theme of the album is the economic trouble our society has been in lately. The songs are intelligent, yet composed to be catchy enough that you can almost see the crowds protesting Wall Street singing along to the album. Take her song “High Low Middle,” in which she sings about the “Saving, wasting, dying for a tasting” social castes into which our nation have been divided.
There are politics as well. “We Added It Up,” with lines like “If I was cat, you were a dog” and “If I was loud, then you were shhhhh” may just be the loveliest thing ever sung about the nation’s political parties inability to agree on just about anything.
It’s the humanness of the album that will win listeners over. The lyrics that reflect the reality of our times, combined with Worden’s strong and sweet vocals provide an authenticity hard to find in the money-making world of music.
“Oh how gorgeous, oh how gorgeous,” as Worden sings in “Reaching Through to the Other Side.” Oh, how well that line describes “All Things Will Unwind.”