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My Brightest Diamond – “This Is My Hand” Review

Shara's hand is the brightest of them all...
My Brightest Diamond
My Brightest Diamond

My Brightest Diamond’s previous album All Things Will Unwind took a long time for me to get. I was initially underwhelmed and my review stated that. Over time I came to really enjoy it. However the return to a more dramatic sound has transformed that first impression and “This Is My Hand” is immediate, full of hooks and is a blast.

“Pressure” opens with big bang of a marching band and rarely lets up. From the guttural roar of brass instruments to the warm rumbles of electric piano – it’s a tour de force that allows Shara to use her voice both powerfully and intimately. The low-end of this track rocks and indeed the bass is something that really gives you a groove as you move into single in waiting “Before the Words” which has some really funky bass guitar. Shara’s voice is beautifully layered as she harks back to a primal time of voice without word and pen. Here you can feel the pressure continuing to build and vent – that tautness is also something that dominates the album. “This Is My Hand” takes a slower start with rolling keyboards and synths as the track builds itself from a celestial glint of heaven to something with real pace and power – like an avalanche of instruments that continuously add more and more. I love the lyrics throughout the album but this track is a particular favourite.

“Lover Killer” takes a step back from the dramatic brass blasts to a funk pop track that’s as sultry as it is minimal initially. Slowly other keyboards and smooth brass arrangements come in over the beautiful voice that is so unmistakably Wordens. The track transforms for the final third as the guitar rocks itself out to a 70’s soul vibe draped in modern-day rock. “I Am Not the Bad Guy” is a hark back to the claustrophobic riffs of the first album. So simple but so easy stuck in your head! It’s a slow burner that cranks it up gradually to its final line like a game of chess. It works really well blending into “Looking at the Sun” which uses an offbeat drum pattern and plenty of tuned percussion to create the melody of mystical wonders. It reminds me of the slightly eerie credit rolls on some early 60’s sci-fi films with all the high pitched female backing singers making alien theremin noises. “Shape” too starts out quite mystical and ephemeral with lots of unusual samples and keyboard twists behind the smooth voice and guitar clinks. The track true to the lyrics “you never know what shape I’ll take” literally shape shifts into massive outro in an unconventional song structure which is like a spaced out jam session.

“So Easy” continues the darker side of the bass with a bass and keyboard led track which has a neo classical end of the world touch to it although it speaks nothing like it. It’s funny how the simplest songs have a lot going on in the background and this is one of those tracks as Shara laments “You said it was easy” over a river of sound. “Resonance” returns to the marching drums of the earlier tracks with a killer bass line. It’s all a bit out of time and takes a couple of listens to get the unusual time signature but it all adds to its charm. It’s such a favourite as it explodes into a scream for the slow motion choruses and then returns to the tense bass line of the chorus. “Apparition” then closes out the initial main album with a beautifully eerie/heavenly wallow into the marshes of the ghostly dead world of after love. It’s a sombre and downbeat ending that has beauty in it throughout.

The Prismatic edition has five other tracks from a Bandcamp EP attached and they are simply amazing if you don’t have them already. “Dreaming Awake (Son Lux Mix)” see’s Ryan pair up with Shara again. Whilst this track doesn’t quite hit the dizzying heights of the stunning arrangements of About A Boy or Pluto’s Moon from their previous collaboration, this is not far short. It’s got vocal synth twists and tweaks as the track builds into more electronica based sounds from the brass and organic instruments it started with. The second half see’s it really kick in for a theatrical finale full of bells and whistles. It is amazing as the brass gets hyper looped round in a circle of speed. “Whoever You Are” is possibly the closest Shara has ever came to making a pop track. The brass and harps work really well alongside the drums and Shara’s voice effortlessly flexes from octave to octave. It’s catchy, full of fun and yet suitably artistic in the lyrics too. The short and pretty “Dreams Don’t Look Alike” has a great skipping beat and the high register of the singing makes the track an unconventional lullaby in fields of green. “Dreaming Awake (Mason Jar Mix)” is similar to the previous version but removes a lot of the noticeable electronica and keeps all the wonderful bass and multiple drum loops to create an equally stunning finale. The track is a real avalanche and both versions are equally fantastic. However surprisingly the two-minute finale track is one of my favourites of the entire piece. “That Point When” is so achingly beautiful with a simple melody. However it’s go so much emotion to it, like a full band version of a track from Bjork’s Vespertine. I’ve had many songs on repeat, but this one the most.

I’m so glad My Brightest Diamond has shown her hand in this stunning album. It’s a difficult battle for my top 5 albums of 2014, but this is certainly in there at the moment. Jaw droppingly beautiful, vicious, boiling and pained – I loved every nuance of it.

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