The MFA rocks impressive Indie lineup

by Beacon Staff • October 14, 2007

All too often the life stories of successful music artists seem to blend together. Of course most songwriters and performers have succeeded thanks to dedication and tireless efforts to showcase their talents, but few can claim that they have been working on their careers since early childhood. But My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden, who will be performing under the band name My Brightest Diamond at the MFA on Nov. 18, can do just that. Having traveling musicians as parents, it only seemed obvious that she would have a natural gift for performing in her blood.

Musical creativity was encouraged in the household, as was the appreciation of jazz, gospel and even Spanish tangos. The example Worden's parents set at a young age for their daughter was the breeding ground for a life in music. By the age of three, Worden was already recording songs; at eight she was mastering the piano while performing in small musicals near her home in Ypsilanti, Mich.

After college, Worden moved to New York City and immersed herself in everything opera, but high-pitched wailing wasn't her calling. As a frequent clubber, she spent a great deal of time checking out the many talents who performed downtown, including Nina Nastasia and Rebecca Moore. Something about those shows stirred her to take a break from studying classical composers and explore a whole new world of rock and rhythm.

Graced with a voice that can only be described as eerie and sensual, Worden began performing her new songs in the clubs and small bars of New York, along with a group of musicians who contributed the sounds of a bass, drums and wind chimes. Together the band created a peculiar fusion of elegance and gothic garage pop. The name "My Brightest Diamond" was born after she realized that her melodic offering to everyone was the most beloved thing she knew of, similar to the beauty of a diamond.

Worden began working on her album in 2004 and found herself juggling two different projects. First there was A Thousand Shark's Teeth, a work in progress featuring a string quartet. The other record eventually became the first release, Bring Me The Workhorse. With the support of drummer Earl Harvin, bassist Chris Bruce, with her father on the accordion, this album delivers pop and rock at its best. One song incorporates the authentic tune of a music box while another includes clanging wine glasses. These little additions really enhance the charm of My Brightest Diamond's organic style. Despite an eclectic mix of instruments and elaborate arrangements, the tracks all fit together beautifully. Worden molds her lyrics into beautiful stories. With many references to adolescence, yearning and creatures, specifically rabbits, dragonflies, horses and robins. Much like her lyrics reflect on the past, Worden's love for opera and theatrics never dwindled either. Her live performances feature wild costumes and a mystical sound that mingles strings with drums.

In March 2007, My Brightest Diamond released their second album, Tear it Down. As the remixed version of their debut album. This record had a lot to live up to, but Worden had no qualms. The process was more exciting than anything else because she was able to experiment further with her songs and break down the barriers of genre. With the help of master disc jockeys and collaborators, the original tracks were tastefully transformed into works of art.

Students can see My Brightest Diamond for themselves when the band comes to the Museum of Fine Arts on Sunday, Nov. 18. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and features an opening act by Brooklyn-based music artist Tim Fite, who is known for his energetic raps and a funky style that overlaps hip-hop with alternative rock.

Student tickets are $12 and can be purchased by phone at 617-369-3306, in person at the Remis Box Office or online at www.mfa.org. Box office hours are Mon, Tue, Sat. and Sun. 10 a.m -4:30 pm, and Wed-Fri, 10 a.m-8:30 p.m.

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Started in 1984 by husband and wife Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley in Hoboken, N.J., Yo La Tengo has spent 23 years constantly evolving with each of its releases, defining one of the most successful careers for an independent rock band. Tonight, they'll bring their versatile musical stylings to the MFA. Having gone through several line-up and label changes in their early years, Kaplan and Hubley secured a permanent bass player, James McNew (formerly of the Boston-based band Christmas), with the 1992 release May I Sing With Me and, shortly afterwards, began releasing albums on the Matador label alongside artists like Pavement and Mission of Burma.

The group started with a fondness for bands like The Velvet Underground (they played the group in the movie I Shot Andy Warhol), Sonic Youth and the Soft Boys and have since explored everything from feedback to psychedelia to lounge music.

Their performance of countless covers throughout their career on their annual WFMU broadcast (a fundraiser for the legendary free-form radio station) and albums like Fakebook demonstrates their expansive knowledge of rock music history and has helped develop their own musical abilities. Ira Kaplan's first time even stepping on a fuzz box to play a solo was in their version of "A House is Not a Motel" by Love.

The band has become a necessity for any music nerd over the years with covers of songs by bands like The Who, The Replacements and Bob Dylan. The Onion even poked fun at their followers in article released in April 2002 whose headline read: "37 Record-Store Clerks Feared Dead in Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster." Artvoice magazine simply described them as a "fan's band" as opposed to a "critic's band," perhaps implying that their group isn't so much only for music snobs as it is for people who just like music in general.

All jokes aside, the members of Yo La Tengo know their rock and has made a lengthy career playing the music they want to play. Their musical freedom has made it hard to categorize their sound and could even be a partial reason for the naming of their band. While it technically means "I have it" in Spanish, the name has little to do with its baseball roots.

"We thought it kind of escaped pigeonholing, by having a name that we thought sounded musical but didn't mean anything," said front-man Ira Kaplan in a 2005 interview on the radio show Sound of Young America.

So what's the result of their musical freedom? Yo La Tengo has a musical catalog that, over time, has covered everything from songs marked by their noisy garage rock influences to songs that are more fragile and layered.

They have a song to please just about any mood-a quality few bands possess, and an important one to fans who appreciate creative ambition. For example, you'll find yourself rocking out to tracks like their hit "Sugarcube" off of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One or feeling overcome with emotion after hearing desolate tracks like "Tears Are in Your Eyes" off of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out.

Also, the group has also spent some time scoring independent films. In 2001, they were asked to score the undersea documentaries of the deceased filmmaker Jean Painleveacute; and later released the music they wrote for the films on The Sounds of the Sounds of Science. They kept the traditional rock band set-up, yet produced some of their most lush, ambient work to date. Listening to tracks like "How Some Jellyfish Are Born," one could see it as a definite precurs

or to 2003's Summer Sun. They performed live along with the film only a couple of times in the years afterwards.

Perhaps their most eclectic release to date is last year's I'm Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. The melancholy "I Feel Like Going Home" and "Song for Mahila" are reminiscent of releases like And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and Summer Sun.

Their rock and roll roots are dominant on tracks like the MC5-styled "Watch Out for Me Ronnie" and "I Should Have Known Better," and they introduced some of their most melodic, jangly pop songs to date with stand-outs like "Beanbag Chair" and "The Weakest Part."

While this release will be the springboard for their shows on this short tour, the group claims anything can and will happen from there.

Yo La Tengo will play two sold-out shows, one early and one late, at the Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts tonight at 6:30pm. According to the band's Web site, "It will feature the band playing an almost-acoustic set of songs from their entire catalog, with stories about their life as a band, and an encouraged back-and-forth with the audience."

The date is one of only three shows, with the others being in Brooklyn and North Adams, Mass. The Cambridge-based songwriter Chris Brokaw, mostly known for his work on early Codeine records and with Come (also on Matador), will open the show.