My Brightest Diamond
All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty)
Shara Worden's classically rubbed art-rock is so precious, it could crumble if you listened to it too hard. Schooled in opera and road-tested as a Sufjan Stevens touring cheerleader, Worden has a sound that blends together those two opposite stylistic worlds, but the effect has often felt more like an awkward musical science project than an inventive coalescence. Her first two albums—2006's Bring Me the Workhorse and the 2008 follow-up, A Thousand Shark's Teeth—were technically dazzling and unlike anything else in the indie blogosphere: layered, winding epics filled with ornate orchestral flourishes. But when you removed the lavish window dressings, what remained was fairly ordinary.
All Things Will Unwind, Worden's third full-length under the My Brightest Diamond moniker, feels like a more natural synthesis of her classical and rock temperaments. One reason is boosted fidelity—recorded in New York with longtime R&B vocal engineer Pat Dillett (whose name has graced credits by the likes of Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and Queen Latifah), these tracks positively sparkle with studio spaciousness; on the blindingly gorgeous "Reaching Through to the Other Side," every lightly brushed snare is rich and resonant, every woodwind trill crystal clear. But even more important is Worden's newfound confidence. No longer hiding behind a poorly played electric guitar, she focuses more on her versatile vocal range, sweeping from guttural tones to high, piercing vibrato at the drop of a flute. Her arrangements feel thrillingly unhinged, ranging from show tune-styled sweetness (the bittersweet bounce of "High Low Middle") to the exotic harmonic puzzle that is the appropriately-titled "Ding Dang." It's heavy, heady stuff, even if the tunes go down smooth—and the taste is about as acquired as it gets. But if you sink your teeth in, her haunting flavor sticks with you.