Shara Gets to Work
One of my biggest problems with the rock genre is its constant regurgitation of its own past. I understand that this is a classic “old geezer” complaint; rock’s target demographic is youth, which means that something that was innovative 30 years ago can be recycled as innovative once again to folks that were simply not around 30 years ago. At worst, it’s called “retro,” which makes it cool anyway. The bottom line is that it’s pretty hard to find true innovation in the genre at this point, and that is something I tend to value when seeking new music.
One example of this is the use of orchestral instrumentation in rock. I do enjoy it when artists like Sufjan Stevens and Beirut use strings, brass and arrangements for chamber music ensembles in their recordings, if only because they still provide a sharp contrast to the instrumentation of most everything else that’s out there. Those happen to be two artists that are also particularly clever in the effectiveness of their arrangements (and they write damn good songs). But I’m not sure you can credit either of them with much in the way of true innovation. The same can be said for one of my big obsessions from last year, Sam Amidon. Creative and memorable for sure, but not really breaking new ground.
That’s what makes the new My Brightest Diamond recording, All Things Will Unwind, truly remarkable. Those familiar with Shara Worden’s previous work are already aware of her incredible voice and creative songwriting skills. And the many more who saw her perform on The Decemberists’ “The Hazards of Love” tour came to appreciate her talent as a performer; it seemed to be a consensus that she stole the show. But here, thanks to her collaboration with yMusic (and specifically, their violinist Rob Moose), she has created an astonishing work which uses its unusual instrumental palette with outstanding creativity.
The songs are catchy enough to “earworm-” play repeatedly in your head, which tends to reinforce itself by driving you back for repeated listenings. Then you’re rewarded with new discoveries each time, mostly in how the instruments are used to accent the lyrics and invent countless counter-melodies.
This is a really great record.
Enjoy this live in-studio performance of the opening track, “We Added It Up,” recorded earlier this year in NYC with the yStudio folks as an introduction: