PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

My Brightest Diamond: This Is My Hand

By time a song ends, one has undergone the journey from ignorance to familiarity accompanied by a sense of Déjà vu as if one already knew what one never has known.

My Brightest Diamond

This is My Hand

Label: Asthmatic Kitty
US Release Date: 2014-09-16
UK Release Date: 2014-09-15

Most musicians understand the importance of changes in volume and get audiences to listen carefully to quiet, intimate moments and then contrast these with loud sounds to convey bigger and bolder emotions and thoughts. That’s par for the course. But My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden takes things further. She employs marching band drums and horns one minute and then her solo voice the next without ever changing the intensity of the music. The range of volume may change, but the passion never does.

Because Worden’s vocals are so operatic and the fact that she has her roots in classical traditions, one might mistake her compositions for concertos. But she’s not Charles Ives, despite the populism of the marching band approach. My Brightest Diamond grounds her sound in modern rock and avant-garde traditions on This Is My Hand. She borrows from a myriad of sources to create sonic spaces in which to dwell, kind of like prog rock without the pretentiousness or pseudo-seriousness of the effort.

Worden layers her sounds for emotive effects and to make a point. She wants the listener to experience feelings and ideas at the same time. That’s what the primacy of sound does, as she explains in the wondrously defiant "Before the Words". The song begins with a heartbeat, presumably the first thing one hears in the womb (I wonder whether the embryo hears the louder and stranger sounds of gastric digestion with its panoply of rumbles and growls more than the pulsating blood, but that goes beyond the topic here). The opening verse begins, "Before the words there was the voice / before the verse there was the sound / before the form there was the music / before the pen and paper there was the / hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo." Indeed! We learned about rhythm from our mother’s pulsating blood. We heard our fathers and others talk before we knew what they were saying. We discerned music in the everyday before we knew what it was and it was everywhere. And it was good.

On this tune and others, Worden uses cascading tempos to build climaxes and then lets them fade and begin again. Nothing is ever static, nor is it predictable. On the best tracks, such as "Pressure", "This is My Hand", and "I Am Not the Bad Guy", the music and lyrics go in unexpected places and then join up later to form a type of resolution accompanied by grand statements like "All of this pressure’s making diamonds," "This is my aim, to love," and "This is what love feels like." The pronouncements work because the music impressively imprints a grandiosity to what is sung. By time a song ends, one has undergone the journey from ignorance to familiarity accompanied by a sense of Déjà vu as if one already knew what one never has known.

My Brightest Diamond works with a rich palette. Worden can make one afraid and then powerful, meditative then active -- not to mention happy / sad and other more simple contradictions -- with the whole point of showing these seemingly contrary elements as part of a continuum and equating them with quiet / loud elements. Think of a painter who uses bold colors as camouflage that both hides and reveals. You think you see the shapes and distinctions that at first seem so obvious, but then everything blends in and makes you question what you see. Worden invokes this image herself in a different way on "Looking at the Sun" when she sings, "Wrestling with a double mind / Like two horses pulling both sides / If I could put one down / Maybe straight I’d run / ‘Cuz I always see the shadows / When I’m looking at the sun.” H’mm, when staring directly into the solar ball My Brightest Diamond finds darkness? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But the pressure of opposites can be a strong enough force to create bright and shiny diamonds. That’s kind of what happens on this album


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.