My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
If 2006's Bring Me the Workhorse was My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden's The Milk-Eyed Mender then it's safe to say that sophomore record A Thousand Shark's Teeth is her game-lifting Ys. The New York chanteuse has fashioned a second album that takes the dramatic flourish and trip-hop influences felt on her debut and marries them to sweeping orchestral vistas. Unlike Joanna Newsom's impeccable follow-up though, Worden adds contemporary sounds to her arrangements, marking her out as a true innovator.
Take opener and first single Inside a Boy; the elastic range of her voice, similar in vein to Beth Gibbons, rides a graceful string-laiden backdrop but a grinding electric guitar slips beneath the beauty to add a hardness that elevates the track even further. An admiration for Tricky manifests itself on the sample-twisting Like a Sieve, while inventive percussion is apparent on the playful Apples and beat-driven epic The Ice and the Storm. Sometimes she'll stick with the baroqueness of other influences, setting lyrics from a Ravel opera to creepy chamber music on Black & Costaud. The idiosyncratic If I Were Queen pairs French horns with harp, making up for clunky lyrics that could be from any quirky songstress du jour (e.g. 'If you and I were neighbours/I'd pick you up each morning for donuts and tea'). Other highlights include the sexy marimba-infused Bass Player and album centrepiece To Pluto's Moon, which works like a three-act tragedy in the way that it metamorphoses sonically.
For fans of Björk and Tori Amos's earlier work, A Thousand Shark's Teeth marks the arrival of a visionary. The first album was enticing but this is truly remarkable. It's a visceral listen, never going for the easy option and often challenging the listener. When Worden sings 'You have spit out beauty like an idiot' on the closing track, she could almost be talking about her own songs except that, on the evidence of these beauties, she is more along the lines of 'genius'.