Versatile chamber-pop mainstay Shara Worden’s fourth full-length album, This is My Hand, is her most economical and confident to date. It’s a collection of clever and polished four-minute pop songs rife with immediate earworms, full-throttle beats and explosive choruses.
Her detailed arrangements shine over everything else, frequently employing compelling and dense percussion patterns, stuttering mutant-funk bass lines and Afrobeat horn arrangements which channel Janelle Monae. See the big-band chorus of pastiche opener “Pressure” and the album’s best uptempo track, “Lover Killer,” which successfully combines a twitchy seven-beat groove with a triumphant and catchy blue-eyed-disco release (“I can dream my future/ I can feel my nature”). The album slowly dims its lights, stripping away layers and BPMs to culminate in the extraordinary ballad “Apparition,” with bossanova-esque harmonies off of an Air record and gentle but acrobatic vocal figures.
In this album’s extroverted context, Worden’s typically distant, mythic poetry is either effectively subsumed or brought to the foreground — see “I Am Not the Bad Guy”‘s “I love you but you hurt me so/ I love you but you won’t let me go” (superimposed over a brittle groove reminiscent of Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”) and the chant-like cataloguing of the title track (unfortunately, not everyone can list as eloquently as Leonard Cohen). A slightly generic script might not be problematic if Worden weren’t trying to reach such dramatic heights, but the least convincing couplets in conjunction with the music’s theatricality is sometimes cringe-worthy rather than pleasantly straightforward. However, even the ill-advised ideas here are woven cogently into the album; they throw good ideas into relief rather than detracting from them. Ultimately, it is Worden’s unity of vision and self-assurance which make This is My Hand generally successful.