Flower woodcut Penelope. ~A Song Cycle~ by Sarah Kirkland Snider



No. 1, Time Out New York Top 10 Classical Albums of 2010

National Public Radio Top 5 Genre-Defying Albums of 2010

No. 3, textura Magazine Top 10 Albums of 2010

Huffington Post, Top 10 Alternative-Art Songs of 2001-2010 (“The Lotus Eaters”)

WNYC New Sounds (John Schaefer) Top 10 Albums of 2010

No. 16, eMusic Top 80 Albums of 2010

No. 1, Der Schallplattenmann sagt (Germany), Top 10 Albums of 2010

Seth Colter Walls (Newsweek and The Awl), Top 50 Albums of 2010

The Indie Handbook, Top 13 Albums of 2010 (“the landmark achievement of 2010”)

The Indie Handbook, Top 10 Songs of 2010 (“Circe and the Hanged Man”)

No. 7, Indie Rock Magazine (France), Top 10 Albums of 2010

No. 11, 17 dots, Top 30 Albums of 2010

Chicago Independent Radio Project, Best Songs of 2010 (“Nausicaa”)

No. 1, Fool in the Forest Top 25 Albums of 2010

No. 3, Mainly Music Meanderings, Top 20 Vocal Albums of 2010

Wears the Trousers, Best Albums of 2010

Screen of Distance, Top 25 Albums of 2010

No. 10, Crystalline Moment Top 20 Albums of 2010

Modern Worship, Top 20 Albums of 2010

Trinity Stardust and the Blog from Mars, Top 15 Albums of 2010

“Newcomer Musician of the Year (Sarah Kirkland Snider),” All About Jazz

[ Press ]

“A potent melding of classical poise and alt-pop punch, this dreamy song cycle was the year’s most affecting creation. Accompanied by new-music dream team Signal, vocalist Shara Worden mesmerized.”

Time Out New York, Best of 2010 Classical and Opera, December 17, 2010


The New York Times, March 10, 2011

Penelope is a gorgeous piece of music, but it is more — it is also a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait, one that explores a dark scenario with a light, almost quizzical touch, finding poetic resonances everywhere…Snider’s music lives in a netherland between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music, an increasingly populous inter-genre space that, as of yet, has produced only a few clear, confident voices. Snider is perhaps the most sophisticated of them all: No matter what perspective you bring to this album, it bears profound rewards.” (8.2 out of 10; full review)

–Jayson Greene, Pitchfork, January 5, 2011

“[Penelope] had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation… ably [demonstrating] the poised elegance of Ms. Snider’s writing.”

— Steve Smith, The New York Times, “Welcome Home, Says A New Mrs. Odysseus,” May 24, 2009


— New York Magazine Approval Matrix, April 19, 2010

“Penelope is such an accomplished and remarkable work, it’s hard to believe that it could possibly be the debut album by [Sarah Kirkland Snider]… a ravishing score that bridges modern classical and electronic genres… This year or any year for that matter, one would be hard pressed to hear melodies that are more gorgeous and soul-stirring… Material so powerful places Penelope head and shoulders above much else that was released in 2010.” (full review)

textura Magazine, October 27, 2010 (Album of the Month; Top 10 of 2010)

“Snider has taken a fascinating idea from playwright Ellen McLaughlin and turned it into a song cycle that works on several levels… Penelope deals with big ideas — memory, identity, “home” — but it’s also an intimate portrait of a woman who, like Homer’s Penelope, is confronted with finally getting what she’s wished for. The top-shelf new music ensemble Signal, directed by Brad Lubman, is equally at home with the electronics and electric guitars of the score as the conventional acoustic instruments. Alternately intimate and dramatic…lovely and colorful.” (full article)

National Public Radio, Five Best Genre-Defying Albums of 2010, December 8, 2010

“With an onslaught of indie bands attempting to combine intellect and musicianship along with a pop sensibility, few have the ability to harness all three in the way Snider has on Penelope.  She courageously tackles a dramatic story arc in the vein of a Puccini opera while never losing track of her audience. Dramatic music may still be popular in many different genres but is rarely done with such care and precision.” (full review)

Death and Taxes Magazine, “Another Reason Why Classical Music Is Not Dead,” October 25, 2010

“To my recollection, the song cycle Penelope is the most vivid, mesmerizing psychological nightmare set to music I’ve heard.” (full article)

–Daniel J. Kushner, The Huffington Post, “The Top 10 Alternative Art Songs of 2001-2010,” December 28, 2010

“Uniting pop and classical music, though, doesn’t have to result in a shadow of both worlds…Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music. [Penelope] is a cycle of haunting art songs… Her music, beautifully sung by Shara Worden and expertly played by Signal, a chamber orchestra, echoes the piercing melancholy of a Chopin nocturne and spacious rhythms of minimalism. Snaking out of the pastoral backdrop are instantly hummable pop melodies.” (full article)

–Kevin Berger, The Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2010

“…one of the most moving indie rock records I’ve heard all year. Penelope is not just essential listening; it is a soul-restoring musical balm.” (full review)

–Daniel Stephen Johnson, The New Haven Advocate, December 14, 2010

“[Penelope] is one upsettingly beautiful song after another strung together in a garland of insanity, desperation, tenderness, remembering and, if not ultimately recovery and redemption, then at least acceptance and release.” (full review)

–Jennifer Hambrick, “Penelope: Songs Song and Unsung,” WOSU, Classical E-Notes, November 18, 2010

“Snider’s musical language includes intricate string writing as well as evocative, post-minimalist shimmers of vibraphone and percussion, and urgent electric guitar and drum kit.  Holding it all together is the distinctive voice of Shara Worden… alternately melancholic, agitated and poignant… the musical offspring of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Eno’s Music for Airports… haunted, glitchy … bewildering and subtle… [serving] to confirm Snider’s deft command of many different musical languages and the ability of the band Signal, an all-star new music group led by conductor Brad Lubman, to play almost anything put in front of them with conviction.” (full review)

–John Schaefer, eMusic, November 5, 2010 (Editor’s Pick)

“…the journey through Penelope—achingly stark, sparse, swaying, and soaring—begs repeated listening with an attentive ear. The way hints of Radiohead and David Lang materialize and mingle with St. Vincent and Chopin only to be reabsorbed into an aural landscape that is uniquely—ineffably—the voice of Sarah Kirkland Snider, results in what is easily the most beautiful album of the year.” (full review)

The Indie Handbook, “Penelope: A Labor of Love,” October 28, 2010

“…there is one album that stands out in my mind as the landmark achievement of 2010: Penelope.”

The Indie Handbook, Best of 2010, December 31, 2010

“[Penelope] deftly weaves pop…and classical. Snider’s dark-hued score is inventive and subtle, with a mix of watery, undulating strings, guitars, percussion and electronics that submerges you completely within the story. Some songs flaunt melodic hooks, others are atmospheric. And all are aided by Worden’s vocals, mournful, urgent and expressive. Brad Lubman conducts the tight little chamber ensemble known as Signal.” (full review)

–Thomas Huizenga, National Public Radio, “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” October 7, 2010

“In the last decade or so, a new breed of conservatory-trained musicians has reinvented crossover in unprecedented ways, fusing classical tradition with hip-hop, indie rock and world music and providing new, exciting audience bridges among these forms at the same time. A good example is New York composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s rock-tinged song cycle “Penelope.” (full article)

–Kyle MacMillan, The Denver Post, December 12, 2010

“This collaboration between composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, the chamber orchestra Signal, and vocal virtuoso Shara Worden is truly epic.”

The Utne Reader, September Music Sampler, September 1, 2010

“[Penelope] features a genre-blending style compelling enough to throw categorizations to the wind and revel in its unique dialect… emotive and heart-wrenching to haunting and ethereal… imaginative and thoughtfully constructed… lovers of pop and rock music will enjoy the numerous catchy tunes…while the classical and contemporary music crowds will be drawn to the strong string writing and orchestration (containing traces of Pärt and Sibelius) and the precise, expressive performances by Signal.” (full review)

–Alexandra Gardner, New Music Box, October 19, 2010

“hauntingly beautiful… a vibrant, revamped storytelling… expressed through meaty masterpieces and told through approachable, heart-wrenching dialect.” (full article; interview with Sarah and Shara.)

Venus Zine, “Sarah Kirkland Snider Sees Homer’s Odyssey in a Female Light,” November 15, 2010

“…a stunning song cycle… Impressive New York chamber ensemble Signal, which also understands how to bridge contemporary classical and pop, performed the music. Penelope isn’t really a pop-rock effort, though there are plenty of rock rhythms and hooky melodies—Snider’s art songs deal in motific development rather than verse-chorus-verse structures. Worden’s singing is hardly bombastic or operatic but rather carefully pitched to the concision of the material.” (full article)

Chicago Reader, February 4, 2011

“This must be what going mad feels like…The heady arrangements open up with closer attention, leading the listener through an aural labyrinth and providing a new experience with every listen… Shara Worden’s voice serves as a guide to the world Sarah Kirkland Snider has created… Even without Worden’s chilling, operatic vocals, the tension that pulls the piece together delivers a compelling narrative… the experience I have just had has a name: Penelope, by Sarah Kirkland Snider.” (full review)

Popshifter, October 26, 2010

Penelope playfully glides between classical and avant pop… [a] weary bewilderment threads through the piece, underscored by chamber orchestra Signal’s melancholic strings that carry a hint of distortion while still exuding a distinct warmth… there are many secrets that can’t be unraveled on a first listen… The catchiness of the music, though, draws us to seek out meaning, and repeated listenings don’t disappoint.” (full review)

–Chris Kompanek, The Avantgardist, Classical TV, November 8, 2o10

“Mesmerizing…lush, evocative, and deeply moving.”

Time Out New York, October 13, 2010

“epic…showcasing a breathtaking vocal performance from My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden set to a haunting string arrangement.”

Filter Magazine, September 28, 2010

“Stylistically, the cycle at once possesses an unabashed pop sensibility and a subtle sophistication… The result is a supremely polished yet genuine and spontaneous-sounding album that bursts with maturity.”  (full review)

–Daniel J. Kushner, Post-Post Rock, October 25, 2010

“Sarah Kirkland Snider has generated a minor critical tsunami this year with Penelope… MOKB is abnormally proud to premiere the absolutely stunning video for The Lotus Eaters, one of several haunting numbers from Penelope that taunts me for merely saying that it defies description.”

My Old Kentucky Blog (Premiere of “The Lotus Eaters” video), November 3, 2010

“remarkable…a beautiful cycle of songs, could just as easily be an opera if fully-staged.” (full article)

–John Schaeffer, WNYC New Sounds: Women’s Tales, September 9, 2010

“subtly explosive…the roar of applause at the end seemed as cathartic as it was genuine.” (full review)

Lucid Culture, “Some Auspicious Debuts at le Poisson Rouge,” October 21, 2010 (re: Penelope live)

“a dreamy song cycle for the indie rock generation.” (full clip)

–Marlon Bishop, WNYC Culture, October 18, 2010

“…the melodies stick in my plasma and everything has the weight of myth and the deep sadness of living.”

Screen of Distance, Top 25 Records of 2010, December 28, 2010

“The phrases and the underlying harmonies would sound completely at home on a Radiohead record.  For Snider too, Kid A was a record that offered a way out of a strict classical/rock divide, and Penelope is clearly the result.  It’s long, narrative arc is dramatic in the manner of Schumann and Schubert, but the understated, ambiguous resolution captures the questioning stance of so much of Radiohead’s material, and the essential irrelevance of the classical idea of musical material that takes a journey and comes to a specific end.” (full article)

Classical TV, “On the Myth of Difficult Music,” George Grella, September 20, 2010

“”This Is What You’re Like” is an adroitly constructed composition… For all its stringed drama, layered presentation, dynamic changes, and uncertain chords, however, this is a song that does not forget that it is in fact a song—an impressive accomplishment for a classically trained composer… The song benefits greatly from Shara Worden’s dusky, charismatic presence; her eclectic background makes the My Brightest Diamond singer a natural for the project.” (full review)

–Jeremy Schlosberg, Fingertips Music, August 24, 2010

“Snider’s score is the very model of smart, contemporary “music savant”—”knowing music” engaged with the “classical” tradition but unafraid to trot out the tools of “popular” music to suit its purposes… Penelope is, for me, the finest, most indispensable and potentially lasting new work I have heard or am likely to hear this year.  You should immediately get yourself a copy and listen to it over and over and over, as you would read and reread a great novel, story, or poem such as, say, the Odyssey.” (full review)

–George Wallace, A Fool in the Forest, November 3, 2010

“A modern composer with a gift for vivid narrative, Snider’s work weaves together a variety of seemingly different styles and genres into creations that transcend the ordinary. I’m still having a difficult time comprehending the emotions [Penelope] evokes… This has fast become one of my favorite albums, and maybe I’m just infatuated, but I’m having trouble finding something about Penelope that isn’t gorgeous.” (full review)

Finally The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid, November 30, 2010

“The overwhelmingly moving concept [of Penelope] is balanced by clear, concentrated and undemonstrative writing…[Snider] reveals it with sympathy and trusts that we will hear and respond, deeply, in our own way. It’s almost dogmatically non-Romantic, but still full of warmth and feeling… The results are powerfully elegiac but not hopeless. Penelope does not settle on a complete, clichéd resolution, but offers the evidence that proves the possibilities of humanity.” (full article)

–George Grella, The Big City, “OK Composer,” October 1, 2010

“…a beguiling piece of musical art…filled to the brim with emotion, feeling, passion, beauty, longing, forgetting, and remembering.” (full review; 4.5. out of 5 “superb”)

Sputnik, January 12, 2011

Penelope is a genre busting musical painting.  Snider is comfortable to embrace any musical style that best progresses her tale.  Haunting, yet beautiful.” (full review)

Innocent Words, November 28, 2010

“Snider can, it turns out, apply her classical chops toward the creation of an amazingly solid pop record.  It’s seamless!  Snider’s hand is incredibly well-hidden here—this could be a singer-songwriter disc that just happens to have especially savvy harmonies and arrangements…So I have greatly enjoyed listening to Penelope, but more than that, I have actually turned to it for when I am feeling down. It is a balm! It is tha bomb.” (full article)

–Daniel Stephen Johnson, DanielStephenJohnson.com, November 29, 2010

“It feels like every day a new [songwriting] talent comes calling to the masses for their praise.  Not many stand out and quite often they seem redundant.  In the coming months composer Sarah Kirkland Snider shouldn’t have to worry about such trivial matters, at least if her new single “This Is What You’re Like” is any indication of what’s to come.”

Indie Rock Reviews, March 9, 2010

“…But as a music critic who might “Bah!” and “Arrgh!” at some new [style] of work I can with confidence say that “This Is What You’re Like” is awesome. It’s such a well-crafted song with intense emotion and wonderful instrumentation. The vocals are classic My Brightest Diamond and hearing Worden in a slightly different and unique setting is just thrilling.”

Knox Road, March 11, 2010, “MP3 of the Day”

“There are 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… 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 Sarah Kirkland Snider, one that definitely inspires keeping a keen eye out for future work, Shara or no.” (full review)

Satellite for Entropy, October 28, 2010

“”This Is What You’re Like” is both epic and heartbreaking with broad, orchestral movements that push it along.”

Trend Robot, March 12, 2010, “Track of the Day”

“…one of the underrated masterpieces of 2010.” (full review)

–Dallas Shal-Hune, Reviews, December 20, 2010

“Shara Worden — typically of My Brightest Diamond, although she collaborates frequently — has a woozy, mesmerizing voice that’s exotic and enticing. She’ll put it to good use in “Penelope,” an hourlong song cycle composed for female voice, chamber orchestra and electronics by the composer Sarah Kirkland Snider.”

— Amanda Petrusich, The New York Times, April 1, 2010 (Critic’s Pick in both Classical/Opera and Pop/Rock Listings)


“…a composer with an enviable knack for crafting moody, strikingly beautiful works.” — Time Out New York

“[Penelope] had an elegiac quality that deftly evoked sensations of abandonment, agitation, grief and reconciliation …ably [demonstrating] the poised elegance of Ms. Snider’s writing.” — The New York Times

Sarah Kirkland Snider [is] conjoining genres to produce culturally electric new music.” — The Los Angeles Times

“…[a] bright young composer…” — The New York Times

“…the emotional immediacy and sense of narrative were arresting…” — The Yale Daily News

“…[a] gifted young composer…” — Time Out New York

“…indeterminately elegiac, or just plain lovely…” — The New Haven Independent

“…a startling new voice…” — Bruce Hodges, Monotonous Forest

“…the gem among the rest…” — The Manchester Evening News

“graceful, haunting, deft” — MusicWeb-International.com

“…Luminous romanticism…tender, lyrical and avuncular.” — The Glasgow Herald

“…as easy on the ears as it is demanding of the mind.” — Hotel St. George Press


“The Maria Malibran of the post-classical set…” — The New York Times

Bring Me The Workhorse is a thing of intricate, mystical beauty, vacillating between dark and uplifting on the cusp of Worden’s expressive vocal acrobatics.” — Time Out New York

“…enigmatic songs from My Brightest Diamond; its leader, Shara Worden, sang with velvety richness as she dispensed stark riffs and elusive memories.” — The New York Times

“Guitarist and acclaimed composer Shara Worden blends striking, quasi-classical sounds with lo-fi rock (PJ Harvey, Breeders).” — Time Out London

“My Brightest Diamond is a gal and her guitar, playing gorgeous but spooky music, accompanied by a string quartet or a band or no one…check her out yourself.” — New York Press

“New York band My Brightest Diamond plays passionate pop with classical leanings, and the key ingredient to its success is singer Shara Worden…here she’ll be joined by the entire band for a set of sometimes fragile, sometimes blazing, always emotive songs that should appeal to fans of Jeff Buckley.” — The Onion

“My Brightest Diamond frontwoman Shara Worden has the classically trained vocal equipment for the opera but chooses to mix ambient indie rock and Cocteau Twins-style goth.” — Isthmus

“There are 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.” — Satellite for Entropy


“vibrant, euphoric performances that seemed to electrify.” — The New York Times

“The new ensemble Signal fills a major gap in the contemporary music scene.” — Time Out New York

“Lubman’s performance is ideal… its rainbow of timbres are beautifully polished and balanced.  A triumph.” —BBC Magazine

“All hail Brad Lubman!” — The New York Times

“Gripping vehemence” — The Los Angeles Times

“Deeply committed performances.” — Musical America.com

“They are a force to be reckoned with… powerful and poetic brilliance.” — The Ojai Post






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