My Brightest Diamond | Tear It Down (Asthmatic Kitty)

cd_mbdShara Worden's voice could be put on top of Gilbert Gottfried and a pack of dying howler monkeys and still sound five steps past amazing.






A few necessary disclaimers, before we commence with this review…

1. The job of a remixer is to give a work new life. They can add, subtract, or pull the strongest elements from a piece. Ideally, it improves upon the original, but it should at least provide a new and different take.

2. The job of a reviewer is to calculate the artist's success at creating a pleasurable experience. With remixes, the songs would be judged on their own merit and against the original work.

3. Shara Worden's voice could be put on top of Gilbert Gottfried and a pack of dying howler monkeys and still sound five steps past amazing.

My Brightest Diamond's 2006 debut Bring Me the Workhorse was easily one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. With her cinematic marriage of artistic indie-pop and classical music, Worden put together a masterpiece. Her fondness for artistic teamwork led to her next logical move: seeing how other artists would reinterpret her debut (sans "The Robin's Jar," a tragic omission).

As with any remix album, there are hits and misses. Alias begins with a take on "Golden Star," transforming it from one of Workhorse's faster rockers to a bass-heavy-yet-simple electronic piece that is not an improvement on the original, but an acceptable alternate take. The same could be said for much of Tear It Down, including Lusine's version of "Workhorse" and David Keith's take on "Something of an End." Some mixers utilize Worden's vocals (her strongest suit) more than others. Alfred Brown strips "Magic Rabbit" down to its core and lets Worden's voice run unopposed for the listener's attention. Haruki makes only the smallest changes to "We Were Sparkling."

In contrast, David Michael Stith's largely instrumental arrangement of "Gone Away" feels incomplete, Siamese Sisters give "The Good and the Bad Guy" an overlong intro that leads to almost nowhere, and both the DJ Kenny Mitchell and Gold Chains Panique mixes turn "Freak Out" from an enthrallingly unusual piece to little more than typical club fare. No doubt Worden would still dance to them, but not with the carefree convulsions of her original.

"Disappear," the magnum opus of Workhorse, is given two takes. Cedar AV robs the song of its most glorious lyric ("I don't think we're meant to stay here…very long") and leaves it lacking. Stakka brings a respectful variation on the original, keeping Worden's best ideas and adding a few of his own. As a whole, the album (minus the "Freak Out" mixes) flows similarly to Workhorse, with the tempo and mood shifting between songs but never veering too far from the path.

For fans who still can't get enough of her music, Worden has also released the iTunes-only Disappear EP, which includes the original and Stakka versions of the title track, as well as a String Quartet version, a jovial remix by James McAlister, and a B-side called "The Lace Handkerchief," which, though weaker (and somehow even more minimal) than the songs on Workhorse, is worth having for any fan. The same can be said for Tear It Down. B+ | Aaron Brummet

RIYL: Nina Simone, Björk, Jeff Buckley

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