My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind
Someone once told me that the hardest part about getting older is accepting change. You learn to live your life in certain patterns and habits, experiencing events and periods that make you who you are. It’s a hard to thing to embrace, and an easy thing to fight. This universal struggle can define a person—or an artist.
Five years removed since the release of her debut Bring Me the Workhorse, a chilling album of frugal introspection that put My Brightest Diamond on the map, Shara Worden found herself surrounded by new things; she had turned 37, had her first child and moved back to Detroit, the epicenter of the auto industry meltdown.
It would have made an incredible amount of sense to make LP number three much like her previous releases: muscular and bone-chilling, full of ruminative glimpses into the cognition of a modern woman. But there’s power in renewal, and it was time for Worden to decide whether she should embrace her new life or fight against it.
Upon hearing flutes and strings on the first verse of “We Added It Up,” the first track of My Brightest Diamond’s newest All Things Will Unwind, it’s clear that Worden decided to embrace the new chapters in her life. Having recruited the chamber ensemble yMusic who has toured with indie darlings Rufus Wainright and Bon Iver, Worden decided to largely abandon the frugal introspection and eerie instrumentation that made her successful on her last two releases. Worden has always been the best when she plays the part of the doomsday preacher; her unnerving accounts of dragonflies and bringing the dead back to life are enough to shake free the dust on your bones. But when she steps back and walks away from her demons as she does on All Things, she loses her stalwart confidence and fidelity, the things that made her podium-beating sentiments so transfixing and believable.
Indeed, much of All Things Will Unwind feels like the teetering of a flying beetle, with the strings and flutes rising and falling and swelling at the same time (“Escape Routes”), and at times it feels like a remix album. Often, the expressiveness of the instrumentation is enough to distract the audience away from Worden’s beautiful vocals (“In The Beginning,” “She Does Not Brave the War”). That’s the primary stumbling block of All Things—the unnecessary and indulgent use of exorbitant instrumentation. Examples include tunes such as the Jonsi-inspired “In the Beginning” that moves with a fluent acoustic step rhythm and “There’s a Rat,” both lacking the relativity to pull on your emotions, with the latter forcing the listener to question exactly what he had listened to (see lyrics: There’s a rat in the kitchen and he’s eatin’ my cheese, eatin’ my cheese alright).
But All Things is not a complete departure for My Brightest Diamond. The lead single, “Be Brave,” marches behind a snare drum rhythm reminiscent of “Jesus Walks” with Worden at her absolute best, ordering to us “Be brave!” behind swelling guitars and keyboards. It’s enough to make you want to raise your fists in the air, following along in her march.
Lyrically, Worden reminds me of Thom Yorke’s Kid A-era on “Reaching Through to the Other Side” with the electronics fitting neatly behind the façade of strings with Worden crooning: Oh how gorgeous, how gorgeous! This struggle now in time! “Everything Is in Line” follows suit, with Worden seemingly pulling lyrics from Yorke’s bedside journal, prophetically asserting that “Everything is in line, everything will unwind” behind a waltzing, groovy drum beat.
The album’s closer, “I Have Never Loved Someone,” touches something that Worden finally has had an opportunity to release. A song to her child that feels much like a Christmas tune, her sentiments leak through every word behind the sound of a rocking chair and tinkling bells. It’s cathartic in its realness and emotion, nearly enough to induce tears, pieced together perfectly behind the backdrop of a hymn.
It is in these organic truths that an artist lives and breathes, and stepping out into the world of experimentation can sometimes fog an artist’s message, as is My Brightest Diamond’s case. Although the changes she made on All Things Will Unwind may have caused My Brightest Diamond to miss the mark, perhaps the step of faith she made is terrifying enough to doubt but necessary enough to embrace. Such is the struggle of life and more so that of an artist. It may be easier to buckle your seatbelt and dig in for another round—but in the long run sometimes it’s better to just let go.