A bit of a heads up for fans of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and just fine music in general. Released 26th October via New Amsterdam Records, Penelope is a one hour song cycle composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider, featuring the vocal talents of Shara and performed by chamber orchestra Signal.
With lyrics penned by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, the album (loosely based on Homer‘s The Odyssey) tells the story of a woman whose husband returns after 20 years, suffering from brain damage, memory loss and the ravages of an unnamed war. The description over on the label website sums it up better than I ever could, so I’m going to cheat a little and quote that:
Suspended somewhere between art song, indie rock, and chamber folk, the music of Penelope moves organically from moments of elegiac strings-and-harp reflection to dusky post-rock textures with drums, guitars and electronics, all directed by a strong sense of melody and a craftsman’s approach to songwriting.
Sound good? It does indeed, not to mention that I’m a sucker for a good story in any form.
Originally written in 2007/8 by Snider and McLaughlin as a monodrama, the work was reconceived and tailored to the inimitable voice of Shara Worden. Classicly trained, there’s very few out there that match Shara’s capacity to sing anything from rock, blues, pop and classical in the blink of an eye and sound absolutely perfect doing so (see – or rather hear – her efforts on The Decemberists‘ rock opera The Hazards of Love, as well as Clogs‘ contemporary classical The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton for further proof, if you need it that is).
The second track on the album, This Is What You’re Like, which as its name suggests sees the protagonist of the story attempting to show her husband who he is, or at least who he was in the way that she remembers him, is available as a free download via My Brightest Diamond’s website, and perfectly exemplifies the above description, combining modern classical and indie rock with a subtle touch of trip-hop. The full album can be purchased on CD or in digital format from New Amsterdam Records. For non-credit card but PayPal inclined listeners, it can also be purchased via Bandcamp.
Aside from being the perfect thing to tide over those eagerly anticipating Shara’s next MBD album – whenever that might be – it’s also the debut album for Sara Kirkland Snider, one that definitely inspires keeping a keen eye out for future work, Shara or no.