Tag Archives: My Brightest Diamond

My Brightest Diamond — This Is My Hand (Album Review)

My Brightest Diamond's This Is My Hand

My Brightest Diamond’s This Is My Hand

My Brightest Diamond
This Is My Hand
Paper Bag Records

The fourth My Brightest Diamond album This Is My Hand is being positioned as something of an anthropological quest. Shara Worden, the operatic voiced force behind MBD says the 10 songs on the album were about a need to connect with a more primal musical world through the collective experience of marching band drums, the inclusive rhythm of handclaps and simple coos and phrases that allow others to sing along. Listening to This Is My Hand through that lens risks viewing it only as a technical experiment, though, when the best and warmest moments on the album feel like they’re about something far more human — a hunt for joy.

My Brightest Diamond’s work has never been particularly light. The brilliant 2006 debut album Bring Me The Workhorse was an incredibly intense, sometimes soaring, sometimes somber rumination on death, loss and youthful melancholy. Even in that dark place, though, Worden left clues there was something — perhaps best expressed by that album’s cathartic dance track “Freak Out” — that showed there was more to life.

That MBD have already commissioned two full remix albums (Tear It Down and Shark Remixes) for past albums Workhorse and A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, respectively, only further suggests a restless spirit at work. In all of these cases it felt like Worden created her songs then took a step back and went, “This is me. But there’s nothing here to dance to…”

This Is My Hand will at least solve that dilemma. “Pressure,” the album’s first track, pays out exactly what Worden promises with dizzying rhythms and a cleansing “I tried to do it all right!” shout-along. “Before The Words” follows this up with an urgent pace and an array of oo-oo-OO-oo-oo-OOs to string you along before reaching what might be the real gold on the album, fourth track “Lover Killer.” An able approximation of Feist’s finger-snapping disco phase, “Lover Killer” just might achieve that notion of a genuinely joyful Worden song… if it wasn’t a harsh, mirrored look at the duality of love, that is.

And that’s when you realize that joy is perhaps something that’s outside of Worden’s work.

“I Am Not The Bad Guy” tugs Worden further back to her comfortable place, a territory of well-trod personal reflection on the choices one makes in life. Meanwhile, “Looking At The Sun,” “Resonance” and “Apparition” remind us of that version of Worden as the mesmeric singing elemental, something so otherworldly that its link to humanity sometimes feels tenuous.

And perhaps that’s what This Is My Hand is all about. Poking and pressing, combating one’s own nature and pursuing a new sound probably isn’t a particularly joyful experience  so much as it’s an uncomfortable one. It’s also a very human experience. And if trying to find a rhythm to this world through an army of drums is what helps Worden find her path there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Aaron’s Top Albums Of 2006

My Brightest Diamond Bring Me The Workhorse

My Brightest Diamond Bring Me The Workhorse

This is my official Top 10 album list for 2006:

1. The Decemberists The Crane Wife
2. The Dears Gang Of Losers
3. The Golden Dogs Big Eye Little Eye
4. Sam Roberts Chemical City
5. The Streets The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living
6. Meligrove Band Planets Conspire
7. My Brightest Diamond Bring Me The Workhorse
8. Tokyo Police Club A Lesson In Crime
9. Woven Hand Mosaic
10. CSS Cansei De Ser Sexy

When I looked at this list for the first time in seven years my immediate reaction was a reflexive “Oh God, I put them at #1?” Maybe it’s because nowadays I hunt for things more primordial than their dandy cravat rock, or maybe it’s because they’re a pillar act for Mumford And Sons fans, either way I’ve pretty much moved on from The Decemberists. Or at least I thought I did. While there’s still something undefinably cloying about them, there are some sublime moments on The Crane Wife. “When The War Came” is an unlikely companion to Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter, and “The Perfect Crime #2,” “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then),” and to a lesser extent, many of the other songs on the album exhibit a certain charming gallow’s humour. It’s not my #1 anymore, but it’s still probably a top tenner.

I’ve always loved The Dears as their particular brand of dark pop appeals to all my outsider sensibilities. Going back through Gang Of Losers I realized this album doesn’t contain any of my favourite Dears songs — those would be “Summer Of Protest,” “Expect The Worst/’Cos She’s A Tourist” and “Lost In The Plot” — but what the album lacks in peak resonance it makes up for with a sort of binding quality. It’s like a sonic affirmation for misfits — you’re weird, maybe a little awkward, off-putting and you know it, but you’re not alone… The Dears are with you — and these songs are the soundtrack to that feeling.

One of the great injustices in the world is that The Golden Dogs aren’t more popular. I’ve cooled a wee bit on Big Eye Little Eye — it’s probably no longer a #3 album for me — but they remain a band I’ll always be behind and one of the few bands I know have the potential to create the perfect song.

There’s a song on Sam Roberts’ Chemical City called “With A Bullet” which I consider one of the best rock ‘n’ roll love songs ever. It’s not particularly unique and the metaphors (“My love for you is as deep as a coal mine”) border on hammy, but there’s a certain genuineness about it that’s absolutely compelling. Roberts sometimes gets unfairly pigeonholed as a bit of a Tragically Hip/Kee To Bala/beer commercial rocker, and to be fair there is a bit of that to what he does, but Chemical City is more than that. There’s some pointed political commentary (“An American Draft Dodger In Thunder Bay”), some psychedelic space jams (“Mind Flood”) and some dreamy brilliant bits (“Mystified, Heavy”). I don’t know if it’s still a #4 album, but it’s definitely an underappreciated one in the Can-rock canon.

Ah, The Streets. This would be the year that I finally got Mike Skinner. It may have been the noise from the hipster set, or his awkward delivery, or my disconnect from his day-to-day world, but it wasn’t until The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living that I realized Skinner was, and is, a master of narrative. He captures a mood, a scene, a time and place perfectly. And his sense of mischief is alright, too.

I swore Meligrove Band were going to take over the world with Planets Conspire and I listened to this album non-stop when it came out. I was wrong. It turns out people didn’t really want the sort of smart rock-pop Meligrove Band… or Golden Dogs… or to a slightly lesser degree Sam Roberts and The Dears… were making this year. I have some theories why that is, but that’s a conversation that’s more for barrooms than blogs.

If I had to redo this Top Ten list today — which I’m sort of doing — the clear #1 would be My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse. Dramatic, beautiful, sad, unique, I still listen to the various songs from this album regularly. I’ve never read or researched much about its themes or the songs meanings. Instead I’ve spent all these years trying to piece them together myself. But I don’t try too hard. It’s more about imagining what the various songs are about rather than definitively figuring them out.

Nominally you could put Tokyo Police Club in that same group thematically as Meligrove Band and Golden Dogs. In hindsight it turns out I only like that robot song.

I’m not religious. Or particularly spiritual. And about the closest I get to either is the sort of admiration I have for acts like Woven Hand and its leader David Eugene Edwards as expressed through fiery intense songs like those found on Mosaic. Upon relistening to Mosaic it’s not really a Top Ten album. The idea of Edwards bellowing away his demons continues to hold a certain romance, though.

CSS? I still love “Art Bitch” and casually reference that song all the time, but it’s otherwise a forgotten album for me nowadays.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1


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My Women Of 2011 Mixtape Contains Zero Artists Who Performed At The Last Lilith Fair

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey

I just made an awesome mixed CD which I’ll be leaning on during my Christmas Tour Around Ontario 2011™ over the next few days.

The theme for this disc was “Women Of 2011,” as in a compilation of songs from female-fronted artists I dug this year. Looking over the list, it dawned on me that although many of them are emerging as the voices of this generation, none of them played last year’s dismal Lilith Fair.

Now either these artists were too cool to do Lilith, or they weren’t asked. Either way, what I’m taking from it all is that by dodging that lameness bullet they’re all even more amazing.

Here’s my mix:

PJ Harvey “In The Dark Places”
Lana Del Rey “Blue Jeans”
Florence And The Machine “What The Water Gave Me”
Feist  “Undiscovered First”
Cat’s Eyes “Face In The Crowd”
Tasseomancy “Diana”
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi “Season’s Trees”
Austra “The Beast”
Lykke Li “Jerome”
Tennis “Seafarer”
My Brightest Diamond “Feeling Good”
Lindi Ortega “Little Red Boots”
Neko Case “The Pharoahs”
Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea “The Tower”
Anna Calvi “The Devil”
Chelsea Wolfe “PALE ON PALE”

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