One of the few negative trends of Pitchfork Fest 2011 cropped up within its first few minutes, when opening act EMA’s vocals overtook the park. Quite simply, though Erika M. Anderson is an impressive guitarist, her voice was off and sour. Over the next 72 hours, she found curdling company with a half-dozen other vocally challenged frontwomen and men. Even the entertaining Zola Jesus failed to sound anything like her dark songbird recordings. It’s epidemic with hyped acts.
Which is why it’s nice to have Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, a stunning vocalist, invade your ears. It’s easy to be swept up by the drama and emotion in her singing—she’s been rightfully described as a female Antony Hegarty. But it’s especially nice to simply focus on the quality of her voice. The Michigan native took her Midwestern work ethic to opera school as a young lass, and the combination of haunting tone and genuine training made her the go-to gal for the big names in indie’s small pond. She backed up labelmate Sufjan Stevens when he was exploring our “Illinoise.” She’s worked with Philly hip-hop collective Jedi Mind Tricks and has toured and recorded with the Decemberists, playing the Queen on their fantasy epic, The Hazards of Love.
But Worden’s more than just a hypnotizing vocalist. As My Brightest Diamond, the 37-year-old also scratches her quirky multi-instrumentalist itch. She was ukeing long before uke was cool. For this free gig, the bewitching, New York–based artist teams with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, reworking her chamber-pop into sweeping symphonies.