My Brightest Diamond - All Things Will Unwind
Shara Worden has one of those voices where she could probably recite the phone book and get away with it. This perhaps accounts for the fact that each of her albums, though vastly differing in tone, has been such an aural feast. First came her debut album as My Brightest Diamond, Bring Me the Workhorse; dark and dramatic, it was propelled mostly by the dizzying rise and fall of Worden's operatic wail and her wickedly black lyrics. Its follow-up, A Thousand Shark's Teeth, was a more subdued and somber affair, sometimes so gorgeously soothing that it verged on soporific, though the voice remained always inspiring. Now, three years later, she has returned with All Things Will Unwind, which builds on elements from both of her prior releases while also bringing something new to the table: it is, so far, the brightest, most playful thing Worden has ever done. Thanks in large part to their richly-orchestrated arrangements, even the sleepiest songs here sound full of life, like the slowly building "She Does Not Brave the War" and the endearing closing ballad, "I Have Never Loved Someone." Meanwhile, faster-paced numbers like "Ding Dang" and "There's a Rat" are delightfully tongue-in-cheek and quirky but resist tumbling into the cutesy cliches they could so easily become in lesser hands. Where the album most succeeds, however, is in the moments that fall somewhere between these two extremes. "Reaching Through to the Other Side" and "Escape Routes" are intriguing paradoxes, quixotic and lively but with a melancholy, vaguely foreboding undercurrent. "Be Brave" is both strangely chilling and highly infectious. It shifts through several moods, from the sparse, spooky beginning to a threatening pep talk from Worden to herself ("Shara, now, get to work/Shara, this is going to hurt") to the uplifting chorus to a final emotional outburst of frustration ("It's so hard, it's so heavy to be hungry to be happy/It's so light, it's so easy just to be/Oh God, what would you do with me?/Oh God, what's my responsibility?"). Also sublime is "Everything Is in Line," a call-and-response duet with DM Stith. Featuring passionate vocals from both parties, the most surprising thing about it is its relative simplicity, considering how immense and complex it sounds. It's the pinnacle of All Things Will Unwind, which explains why its chorus provides the album's title. Overall, All Things Will Unwind is a diverse and immensely enjoyable listen, not only because Worden's got one of the best voices in independent music today but also because she's also a brilliant songwriter. She knows exactly when to pull back and when to let it all hang out, which is precisely what makes her music so compelling. You may come for the voice but you'll stay because of the songs.