I have to be honest: My Brightest Diamond has been on my radar for a long time, but, until recently, I haven’t listened to it. Then it was announced the band would be passing through Indianapolis on the second leg of its US tour. So I listened.
I got my hands on a copy of My Brightest Diamond’s latest, This Is My Hand, which was released in September. It didn’t take long to realize I’d been missing out.
This Is My Hand is a magnificent swirl of marching band percussion, jazzy horn sections, a pinch of psychedelia and ringleader Shara Worden’s enchantingly mellow voice. There are touches of Portishead-esque trip-hop, some early 20th century jazz, wisps of Tom Waits, Bjork, St. Vincent, Radiohead and a gazillion other influences.
“I moved around my whole life,” says Worden. “I lived in nine states by the time I was 18. My parents and my family have a really wide listening library. I was exposed to so much.”
“I have to keep remembering that because I get the genre question so much,” she continues. “I’m really working hard to integrate all these things.”
Worden tells me she approaches each of her albums with a concept in mind.This Is My Hand leans a little more towards rock and electronic music (though she’ll be performing it with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall next year). She attributes the record’s aesthetic to its producer, Zac Rae, who also plays keyboards for My Brightest Diamond.
“The genesis of the new album was looking at the changes that have happened in music over my career, and trying to reevaluate what it meant to me in the first place: ‘what is the value of music?’ is essentially the question,” Worden says. “I took the marching band as this idea – at least in American culture – that music is for everybody.”
For those familiar with her previous releases, the new album is more akin to the dark, operatic rock of her first two records, Bring Me The Workhouse and A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, than 2011’s All Things Will Unwind. Worden, who holds a degree in opera, sites All Things Will Unwind as her “classical record.”
Worden is just as at home in front of an orchestra as she is a rock band. She has performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on three different occasions. In the spring of 2013, she, appearing with IU alum Son Lux, performed Sarah Kirkland Snider’s acclaimed, Odessey-inspired song cycle Penelope with ISO.
“Because my last record was made for concert halls, I wanted [This Is My Hand] to be like the audience was completely surrounded by the sound.” Frankly, she succeed. This Is My Hand is a constant ebb and flow of immersive sounds, be it horn swells or glittery synth washes or airy Worden’s voice. Repeated listens reveal added depth to the tunes, like subtle frequencies worming their way through the mix from the edges of the stereo field.
Worden will be back in the Hoosier state later this month to envelope an audience in sound. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done a club gig there,” she says.
My Brightest Diamond plays the Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids, Mich. tonight, then Lincoln Hall in Chicago tomorrow. The band plays the White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis on Thursday, Nov. 20, with Dosh & Ghostband. Music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 advance.