Shara Worden is the kind of artist that captivates all of the five senses. Okay, so since I’ve never touched the genius behind My Brightest Diamond, and haven’t really attempted to smell or taste her (though I was close enough to probably try to do both at least year’s SXSW, but didn’t want to get arrested or find myself branded a `stalker’), we may have to limit that statement to two senses, sight and sound. I’ve seen Shara perform three times now, first with label head Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers, then as My Brightest Diamond, opening for Sufjan on a subsequent tour, and finally at the aforementioned conference in Austin. Though many have been entranced by Sufjan’s former bandmate, Katrina Kerns, a Ford model, or by Sufjan himself, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the diminutive Worden, slinkily dancing behind a huge guitar through “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhhh!” Little did I know then that Worden would dazzle me with her own music a mere year later.
Worden has returned under the moniker My Brightest Diamond, not the first name she’s used as an outlet for her personal expression, but probably the last considering her modest popularity. A Thousand Sharks’ Teeth is a natural progression from her debut, Bring Me the Workhorse, though that progression takes leaps and bounds as opposed to baby steps. From the very first track, “Inside a Boy,” I was floored. Whereas Worden’s music was audibly influence by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Björk, Beth Gibbons, Antony and Nina Simone on her debut, she’s now captured more than just a similarity. Shara’s voice is exquisite, like an operatic mix of all of the above artists, with Buckley’s range, Björk’s timing, Gibbons’ tint of darkness, Antony’s classical and dramatic warble, and Simone’s sense of wisdom and character. I debated dubbing her `Jeff Björkley,’ but I’ll just leave that as an aside. “Inside a Boy” even has a moment in which there is an electric guitar solo / breakdown that resembles songs like “Mojo Pin” and “Eternal Life.” But the amazing aspect of Worden’s new album isn’t the likenesses to other artists; rather, it’s the duplicate sense of awe one receives from the experience of listening.
Just as there is much more going on than just chords, notes and lyrics in songs by the above artists, the same is definitely true for My Brightest Diamond. The emotive string arrangement and electro-tribal percussive nature of “The Ice & Storm,” the stripped down cinematic feel of “If I Were Your Queen,” and the avant-garde classical nature of the vibes in “Apples” all lead one into realizing that MBD is a step above most artists out there right now. Worden continues to impress throughout the album, with the Radiohead-like “From the Top of the World,” the cabaret flavored “Black & Costaud,” and the “Nature Boy”-inspired “To Pluto’s Moon.” Several more meditative pieces close out the album until the brilliant closer, “The Brightest Diamond,” somehow a crossroads of every style found in the album thus far.
After hearing this sophomore release from Shara Worden, I’d dare say that she’s more than among my favorite female artists ever. She could easily compete for the top spot on any given Sunday. Not only that, but I’d also say that she’s the only one I’ve felt is worthy of the oft-thrown around mantle of the `next Jeff Buckley.’ I haven’t heard any other artists until Worden who have managed to combine a mesmerizing voice, virtuoso guitar playing, incredible arrangement, classical training and rock sensibility in such a pleasurable way. A Thousand Shark’s Teeth finds Shara Worden stretching beyond the idea of merely making accessible songs. Instead, taking a cue from some of the work of her idols, she focuses her talents on creating aural imagery, landscapes and textures. And soaring above it all is her glorious voice.
Björk – Homogenic
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Nina Simone – Four Women: The Nina Simone Philips Collection