my brightest diamond

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(I guess blogsarefordogs’ short-story-posting feature is out of commission for awhile. So poetry resumes when I remember to do it. –ed)

Wordsworth’s Skates
by Seamus Heaney

Star in the window.
                                  Slate scrape.
                                                           Bird or branch?
Or the whet and scud of steel on placid ice?

Not the bootless runners lying toppled
In dust in a display case,
Their bindings perished,

But the reel of them on frozen Windermere
As he flashed from the clutch of earth along its curve
And left it scored.

Bjork — The Modern Things

My Brightest Diamond — We Were Sparkling

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Top 10 2006; 10

My Brightest Diamond
Bring Me the Workhorse
Asthmatic Kitty
The Robin’s Jar (removed. contact me for a copy.)

What separates a person’s music and puts them ahead of the pack, so to speak? How can an artist make her or himself so well known that within three bars, the listener will say, “I recognize that”? In this age of consumption, names and sounds blend together. Songs are downloaded and discarded, as ephemeral as the pixels that strike your screen. Artists work hard for a recognizable musical identity, and many fail.

In an interview at The Torture Garden, Shara Worden commented:

. . . so when a rock or pop singer comes for [voice] lessons, they often find themselves in this dilemma of identity. What is me? What is my voice? How much of the voice can I change with study and technique, and still be me? . . . But changing takes time, consistent work and a flexible mind that is willing to try new things to discover a different outcome. That is a very vulnerable and sometimes scary process. To gain control sometimes you have to let go.

“Bring Me the Workhorse” is a disc where the artist takes her own advice, trying vocal experimentalism. It works in some places, and in some it doesn’t. Half the artists on the 11-20 list can outwrite her; some examples are: this is a ride going nowhere but somewhere that I despise, from “Gone Away”; I once saw a dragonfly caught in a spider’s web / as I looked at her once more, I though that she was … dead, from “Dragonfly”; and the very awful “The Good And the Bad Guy,” so aptly titled, because she mentions about eighty times that he’s … you know … the bad guy (except when he’s the good guy, of course). And she’s oddly preoccupied with animals: robins, rabbits, insects, spiders, horses, etc.

But! In execution, she is daring, spellbinding, investing her text with enough interest to make it worth listening to. The way she uses her voice reminds me of indie nonpareil Jeff Mangum; they both simply drip with passion. In “Freak Out,” her voice rises from the lower registers of tear his heart out, tear his heart out to a manic command — freak out! Freak out! The beautiful instrumental backup is the springboard for her lyrical high dives.

The best track on “Workhorse” is number eight, “The Robin’s Jar,” which combines the best of her writing with the passion in her voice. The song starts out with finding a dead robin:

We found a robin in our backyard
it was already dead, but we were so sure
that things weren’t gone too far
so we prayed to God above that he’d bring it back to us
and we put it in a jar and waited; and waited.
but mommma made us bury it
momma made us bury it in the backyard

Standard enough fare for the album, but the second verse juxtaposes the robin (in the jar) with the death of the narrator’s best friend. Said friend is “the brightest star in the room” and when something mysterious happens to her (I can’t make it out in the lyrics), Worden’s voice intensifies some already creepy lyrics:

we prayed to God above that he’d bring her back to us
so we put her in a box
we put her in a box and waited for something to happen;
but nothing happened
momma made me bury her
momma made me bury her
momma made me bury her
in the backyard

If you add up the childish faith of the narrator and her stubborn refusal to believe that dead is dead, it’s a memorable set of images. “Bring Me the Workhorse” has moments where everything comes together just like that. Worden’s ability to take a leap out into experimental territory and try something new resulted in a disc which isn’t perfect by any means, but the potential in it, and the result when lyric and vocals click together, goes a long way toward creating an identity memorable enough for any listener to connect with.


My Brightest Diamond

So why didn’t anyone tell me that Bjork and Tori Amos got together and raised up a baby in their image, probably on a commune somewhere in Iceland, and that sometimes they had PJ Harvey and Dido and Karen Peris over, and then the girl grew up and was Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond? I mean, people, you can’t just leave that information languishing! I’m ashamed of you. I’m ashamed of me. Shame all around!

“Bring Me the Workhorse,” which came out in August, is Worden’s first album, and it’s on the Asthmatic Kitty label, giving it Instant Cred. But her music really is an appealing mix of her masterful vocals and augmenting instrumentals. By which I mean, the instrumentals don’t overwhelm or detract from her voice. She has a fantastic voice; I can’t say it’s not derivative, because just listen to “Freak Out” and tell me if it doesn’t sound just like Tori in the “Boys for Pele” era. But that being said, I have not yet found a song that doesn’t appeal in an odd, experimental, and yes, even bright, way. The more I listen to it, the more I like it, and that’s the kind of music that stays with a person much longer than, say, pop á la the Quiescently Frozen Primates.

My Brightest Diamond – Site | Myspace | Label (Asthmatic Kitty)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

My Brightest Diamond – Freak Out
My Brightest Diamond – Golden Star
My Brightest Diamond – We Were Sparkling