My thoughts on Penelope by Sarah Kirkland Snider. Released on New Amsterdam Records.
New Amsterdam Records is enjoying many releases this year and seems to be creating a certain style or brand. Many of the releases I’ve heard this year feature composers that combine both classical and rock/pop elements. Penelope is no exception, but is the most convincing attempt from the label so far. Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes this song cycle for alto voice, a chamber string orchestra, drum set, and electric guitar among other things. One limitation all of these records have so far is a loss of rock music feeling. More clearly, a lot of these albums add drum set or other rock instruments but often it comes off as stale and too Dream Theater for my tastes. That is where Penelope differs.
These songs pull off the chamber pop sound while keeping hold of the rock feeling in the drums and guitars. Probably the most successful composer that does this is Clint Mansell in The Fountain soudtrack, but Snider is a close second. The Lotus Eaters is the best example of Snider’s control both compositionally and emotionally. Snider’s string writing is quite stunning and Shara Worden’s voice clearly floats above these lush textures. The drums and guitar are not distracting, but add a nice element to the composite sound.
New Amsterdam should be proud to release their most convincing album that has equal footholds in the classical and pop worlds.