My Brightest Diamond

This Is My Hand

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During the three years between All Things Will Unwind and This Is My Hand, My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden pursued arty projects such as scoring a Buster Keaton film and performing in a Matthew Barney film. She also found inspiration in Top 40 hits, and as the None More Than You EP suggested, this unlikely but captivating combination of high art and pop culture delivers some of Worden's most creative and fully realized music. She opts for a restricted -- but not restrained -- palette of sounds that reflects the album's dualities: rarefied woodwinds, brass, and percussion meet crunching beats, chugging guitars, and surprisingly funky basslines. Her embrace of pop doesn't diminish her music's complexity; instead, she uses pop's deceptively simple tools and tricks to hone these songs into their purest, most dynamic forms, particularly on This Is My Hand's first half. The opening salvo "Pressure" announces itself with a thundering drum line and crisp choral vocals that give Worden's icy, classically trained voice more heft when she sings "all this pressure's making diamonds." It's one of My Brightest Diamond's finest, most exciting songs, and its spirit continues on the title track, where swirling woodwinds and claustrophobic drums make the divide (and unity) between body and soul almost tangible. Meanwhile, the ominously sexy "Lover Killer" and "I Am Not the Bad Guy" explore how love blurs the lines between good and evil as they swing between slinky pop and artier, jazz and classical-informed terrain. This Is My Hand's second half provides the yin to the beginning's yang, but Worden pulls listeners into the quieter songs just as skillfully as she got their attention with the louder ones. "Looking at the Sun" transforms the elements that made "Pressure" so vibrant into something somber and implosive; the dreamlike "So Easy" makes the most of the album's fire and water imagery; and "Shape" even feels a bit meta as it morphs from subdued to forceful. As direct as a touch and as subtle as feelings, This Is My Hand is exciting in a way that's different from Worden's previous work -- when she sings "this is my time" on the title track, it's hard not to agree with her.

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