A Thousand Shark's Teeth
Late last November, My Brightest Diamond came through my town. I'd heard the name before and was slightly curious, even read a bit about them in the music press. Nevertheless, I didn't go to the show. In hindsight, my decision to skip the concert was a big mistake.
But let's back up for a bit. To refer to My Brightest Diamond as a "them" is both right and wrong. While the official MySpace page cites over a dozen contributors, and the CD liner notes are jam-packed with names, the captain at the helm of this sonic ship is thirty-four year old Shara Worden. My Brightest Diamond is her project, and her polished poperatic (that's pop operatic) style permeates everything she touches. A Thousand Shark's Teeth—an album six years in the making that Worden wrote, produced, and arranged herself—is the second installment in this multi-talented musician's grandiose vision.
Hailing from a musically-inclined family, Worden was raised on a steady diet of classical music, gospel, and jazz. As an adult, she went on to earn a degree in opera from the University of North Texas. She plays at least ten instruments—including piano, accordion, guitar, ukulele, and kalimba (African thumb piano). While her classical influences range from Debussy to Pierre Boulez, her pop music sensibilities stem in part from her love of Edith Piaf and Threepenny Opera composer Kurt Weill. She is also an acolyte of the late Jeff Buckley, a musician to whom she is routinely compared. Her cabaret sensibilities are reflected in her stage shows, which often incorporate elaborate costumes, puppetry, and dance.
A Thousand Shark's Teeth is an engulfing record, steeped in luxurious orchestration and seemingly infatuated with all things heavenly; each of the eleven songs is full of words to indicate this. Take, for instance, "Inside a Boy" ("We are stars colliding/We crash like lightning/into love") or "Ice and The Storm" ("I want a storm to blow it out"). There's a windblown rainstorm brewing in "Black and Costaud." You can hear it in the music. It's a tune full of swollen clouds and sweeping cinematic menace, the sort of song that seems well suited to illustrate the inner turmoil of a character in contemporary ballet.
For all of its grand swelling opulence, My Brightest Diamond also embrace the everyday minutiae of love, especially with the charmer "If I Were Queen," a song that relishes even those meaningless quarrels every couple has: "We'd collect things and we could argue where to put them."
I cannot help but think of A Thousand Shark's Teeth as a headphones-at-home-on-a-Sunday-afternoon sort of album. I should know. I've tried to listen to it under more active circumstances, such as while riding the bus or on walks around the park. There's just too much going on in Shara Worden's musical microcosm to take everything in when there are distractions. Worden savors the little details, and in doing so, creates music that must be appreciated with the same sort of intimacy and zeal.