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REVIEW: Sarah Kirkland-Snider’s PENELOPE featuring Shara Worden & FearNoMusic @ Alberta Rose (Portland, OR – 2/2/13)

4th Feb 13 (Mon) Leave a comment

Sarah Kirkland-Snider (L) & Shara Worden (R)Ever the Shara Worden / My Brightest Diamond fanboy, I got PENELOPE – the collaboration with composer Sarah Kirkland-Snider – back when it came out in 2010.

I loved the record then… dark, light, moving, haunting, gorgeous emotions not only from Shara’s voice but also from the musical compositions.  PENELOPEPenelope is a song cycle / concept album, inspired by a journey and coming home a la Homer’s Odyssey.  Read more about it here.

Never did I think I’d have a chance to see it performed live.  I mean, I’ve seen My Brightest Diamond plenty of times, but I always thought of Penelope as a one-off – solely an album collaboration.  A very good album collaboration, but an album collaboration nonetheless.

I only found out about the one-night only show with Portland’s FearNoMusic chamber ensemble about two weeks ago, but I bought I ticket without consulting my calendar.  Luckily nothing was on my calendar… but honestly, if something had been, I would have had to change my plans anyway.

The show was as gorgeous as the record,if not more.  Quite moving and amazing to hear in the room: the strings, the horns, the woodwinds, the powerful voice.  There is a lot of pain in the words, but also a hope in starting over… blown over by the wind, turned over by the tide.  At least that’s what I take out of it.  It left me with hope.

Setlist: ~70 mins

  • The Stranger with the Face of a Man I Loved
  • This Is What You’re Like
  • The Honeyed Fruit
  • The Lotus Eaters [music video]
  • Nausicaa
  • Circe and the Hanged Man
  • I Died of Waiting
  • Home
  • Dead Friend
  • Calypso
  • And Then You Shall Be Lost Indeed
  • Open Hands
  • Baby Teeth, Bones, and Bullets
  • As He Looks Out to Sea
  • Encore: Be Brave

Shara Worden’s stunning vocal delivery was joined by FearNoMusic conducted by Katherine FitzGibbon with Inés Voglar, violin; Joël Belgique, viola; Nancy Ives, cello; Alicia Paulsen, flute; Mark Dubac, clarinet; Leander Star, French horn; Jeffrey Work, trumpet; Dan Balmer, guitar; and Sergio Carreño, drum set and percussion.

Shara kicked off her heels (literally) for the encore MBD song.  I’m glad that Shara played at least one tune from her own catalog… but honestly, it wasn’t needed.  Penelope worked on so many great levels in a live setting.

There are a few more Penelope dates scheduled… Minnesota, Indiana, and New York so far.  Check out Sarah Kirkland-Snider’s events page.

The Appropriate Linkage:

And, I promise, I’ll get my gosh-darn “Best Of 2012” list posted soon… I’m horrible this time.  The next show for me is Ben Folds Five @ Roseland (Portland) on 2/5.

~Dan – np: Tomahawk – Oddfellows
Tomahawk - Oddfellows

My Brightest Diamond ‘All Things Will Unwind’ (Oct 18, 2011)

12th Jul 11 (Tue) Leave a comment

So, if I could have a blog solely dedicated to the music of Shara Worden/My Brightest Diamond, I would.  I ‘found’ her via her opening slot for Sufjan Stevens’ Avalanche tour (Indianapolis 2006?).  Her voice amazed me, and she has quickly become one of my favorite vocalists.  She has operatic voice training, a clever wit, charming lyrics, and an indie-rock DIY mentality.

Her third studio album under the My Brightest Diamond moniker* has been announced… All Things Will Unwind will be released October 18, 2011.

For those unfamiliar, MBD creates some fantastic orchestral indie pop.  She’s offering a FREE download of a song from the forthcoming album…

Free mp3 Download:
Reaching Through to the Other Side

All Things Will Unwind track list
01 We Added It Up
(Studio 360 live video)
02 Reaching Through to the Other Side
(MusicNow 2011 video)
03 In the Beginning
04 Escape Routes
05 Be Brave
06 She Does Not Brave the War
07 Ding Dang
08 There’s a Rat
09 High Low Middle
10 Everything Is in Line
11 I Have Never Loved Someone

*– She has a few MBD precursors under the band name “AwRy” (harder to find), plus a few remix EPs, several cover tunes on compilations, and several fantastic side-projects like Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope, the spoken word Letters From Distant Cities, and the upcoming Kickstarter for her backing band yMusic’s debut album – Beautiful Mechanical.  All worth checking out as well.

~Dan – np: Eddie VedderUkulele Songs

Shara Worden & yMusic @ Ecstatic Music Festival 2011 (concert webcast)

18th Mar 11 (Fri) Leave a comment

WQXR/WNYC just posted 2+ hours of live streaming music from Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and yMusic’s performance at the Ecstatic Music Festival at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall.

This show features Shara Worden wearing both her composer and performer hats. yMusic premieres a work written for them by Shara and the classical/indie vocalist joins the instrumentalists on stage in selections from Sarah Kirkland Snider’s recent 2010 release, Penelope, one of my favorite albums of 2010 – which features Shara’s stunning vocals.

The webcast link

This performance by Shara Worden and yMusic is the third of four New Sounds Live broadcasts on Q2 from Merkin’s Hall’s Ecstatic Music Festival. Check out the other two webcasts – the 2011 People’s Commissioning Fund concert and Newspeak and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. The final broadcast on March 28 features So Percussion and Bobby Previte.

~Dan – np: Pedro the LionThe Only Reason I Feel Secure Is That I Am Validated By My Peers

My Brightest Diamond – 2011 news

19th Jan 11 (Wed) 1 comment

My Brightest Diamond / Shara Worden has some new collaborations in the hopper…

  • “I’m On Fire” is a duet that Shara recorded with Chris James of the band Stateless for their new album, Matilda, due out on February 21, 2011 in Europe on Ninja Tune.
  • Colin Stetson’s forthcoming album, New History Warfare Vol.2: Judges, will be released February 22, 2011 on Constellation Records.  Shara is featured on 2 tracks: “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” and “Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun” (which also features Laurie Anderson)
  • Murat Eyuboglu has produced a multimedia release entitled Letters to Distant Cities, which features poetry recitation and a song by Shara. New Amsterdam Records will be releasing it March 29, 2011.

She’s also has a few dates coming up, too…

My Brightest Diamond 2011 TOUR

  • 01/27/11 New York City The Allen Room *
  • 01/28/11 Milford, CT Daniel Street ~
  • 01/30/11 Ithaca, NY Castaway’s %
  • 01/31/11 Rochester, NY Bug Jar %
  • 02/01/11 Cleveland, OH Beachland Tavern %
  • 02/03/11 Holland, MI Knickerbocker ~
  • 02/04/11 Chicago Lincoln Hall ~
  • 02/05/11 Madison, WI Der Rathskeller ~
  • 05/04/11 – 05/05/11 Minneapolis, MN Southern Theater +

* Shara, Drums, bass & yMusic
~ Rock Trio formation
% Shara performing solo
+ Shara & yMusic (co-bill with Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Penelope)

I’m soooo tempted to hit the Minneapolis dates… closest they’re getting to me.  I guess I’ll wait / hope they fill in a PacNW date or two in between February & May…

~Dan – np: No-ManHousewives Hooked on Heroin EP

* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2010 *

29th Dec 10 (Wed) 7 comments

Disclaimer: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 120 of them, which makes me at least 98.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2010. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2010. And you might be right. And, I while I generally agree with John Roderick about Year-End Lists, I still find it quite fun to compile my own.

I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my third year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook & MyFace pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2010 Mix CD.

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Finger Eleven‘s Life Turns Electric, Gnashing of Teeth‘s Walking the Appian Way, Kaki King‘s Junior, Kim Taylor‘s Little Miracle (out late Dec ’09 digitally), and That1Guy & the Magic Pipe‘s Packs A Wallop!

The WeepiesBe My Thrill (Nettwerk) :: Lush singer-songwriter husband/wife duo from Northern California. Syrup-y sweet & poppy, but regardless of my penchant normally against those types of things – The Weepies do it up right. A superb piece of well-crafted pop.
Chali 2NaFish Market Part 2 (Decon) :: Another great solo outing from my favorite rapper from Jurassic 5. This is Chali’s 3rd solo album, and while the sound and vibe hasn’t changed much – his consistency is most what I like about him. Hard hitting, booming voice, witting lyricism, and generally moving into more positive territory (he’s not a “bitches and hoes”-type of rapper).
Caedmon’s CallRaising the Dead (INO) :: I’ve been a fan of Caedmon’s Call for going on fifteen years. I’ve stuck with them through some (personal opinion) lackluster lyricism after the departure of my favorite Caedmon’s songwriter – Derek Webb. He came back to produce and be in the band for this one; and quite frankly, I think this is their best record since 40 Acres. Lyrically, it still has a religious bent; but being in a minority of “non-Christian Caedmon’s Call fans,” I still didn’t find it cringe-worthy like most “contemporary Christian music.”
RedbirdLive at Café Carpe (Signature Sounds) :: Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and David “Goody” Goodrich put out a great studio album of covers and originals in 2003. At the recent Mulvey/Foucault live shows this fall, they announced this new release. This new release is the live equivalent of the debut seven years ago (but different material) – a great mix of covers of people that influenced them, as well as a few of their own originals. Vocal duties split between Mulvey, Foucault & Delmhorst. I hope they are able to tour behind this in 2011.
Ty TaborSomething’s Coming (Molken) :: I’m a big fan of King’s X. As a trio, they put out a wall of sound, and a big component of their brilliance is Ty Tabor’s stellar guitar-work. His solo work also features his Beatles-esque vocals on top of his southern-grungy-rock sound. 2010 also saw the release of Ty’s Trip Magnet side solo project, Jelly Jam’s Additives bonus material, and the studio time with Jelly Jam (with John Myung & Rod Morgenstein) for their upcoming 3rd record. Whew, he’s been busy.
Ben Folds & Nick HornbyLonely Avenue (Nonesuch) :: I’m ambivalent about Ben Folds. I never know if I’ll like it; so I put off getting it. Then I get it and love it. This record was a collaboration between Ben and author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc). The lyrics are a little jumpier to me (Nick’s style versus Ben’s style), but it still feels very much like a Ben Folds record. They also feature a bonus song (iTunes version) with “video song” heroes Pomplamoose.
Jeanne CherhalCharade (Barclay FR) :: I first heard Jeanne Cherhal when we picked up her second album (Douze fois par an) when in Toulouse, France, for my MBA program in 2004. Only available in France, I’ve managed to get her albums via Amazon.fr (good thing the buttons are in roughly the same spot). I still don’t know what she’s saying, but I dig her style.
S (Jenn Ghetto)I’m Not As Good At It As You (Own Records) :: Carissa’s Wierd [sic] front woman promised this 3rd ‘S’ record back in… oh, 2007?? It was worth the wait. Haunting lyrics and vocals, simple yet complex acoustic guitar (that hearkens back to Elliott Smith). Bright emo and depressing pop music. Carissa’s Wierd also put out a retrospective (with a couple new tunes) and a small handful of West coast dates. Who knows – maybe they’ll get active again in the near future? I could dig it…
Greydon SquareThe Kardashev Scale (self) :: A little more mature in lyricism compared to The CPT Theorem. Perhaps it’s due to putting some of the ‘Rational Response Squad’ fighting behind him. Greydon, the foremost atheist rapper, made his 3rd record into what I think to be his most consistent. It’s solid, smart and superlative-worthy.
Damien JuradoSaint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian) :: I got into Damien Jurado via the Seattle-based melancholy, indie singer-songwriter scene (i.e.- Pedro the Lion / David Bazan). While similar in general geography and friendship, Damien strikes me as more of a pure “songwriter” when compared to David’s social critique set to music. Saint Bartlett fits well into Damien’s oeuvre. At a show this past February (6 months before the album came out), I hardly knew any of the songs but felt as though I did. That’s a testament to his craft.
ClogsThe Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland) :: I first saw Clogs at MusicNow 2007 (in Cincinnati). Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner (of The National) know how to make some interesting chamber pop. The album (as with the live premiere in 2007) features Sufjan Stevens and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). It’s quite a lush record – as the title suggests.
Sufjan StevensAll Delighted People (Asthmatic Kitty) :: Two albums in 2010, Sufjan’s 50+ minute “EP” hit us first. Beautiful and haunting in “The Owl and the Tanager” and primarily experimental and adventurous throughout, especially compared to his older material. Originally only released online via bandcamp, the EP saw physical form (CD & vinyl) earlier this month. I’m bummed Sufjan nixed future “State” albums, but I’m still glad with his 2010 output.
George HrabTrebuchet (self) :: George Hrab creates one of my favorite podcasts ever… the Geologic Podcast. It’s not about geology. It’s about science, skepticism, and his general life as a musician from Bethlehem, PA. He is both humorous and intelligent, and he puts out great albums as well. Trebuchet is his 6th studio album, and it features some great instrumental songs as well as some witty numbers fitting his skeptical, atheistic viewpoint. One of my favorite songs on it is “A Small Comfort,” which is about the death of his dog Oscar. I also give George some kudos for kicking off his album with the Christopher Hitchens’ inspired “God Is Not Great” (an atheist pop song). Bravo!
Damien & Drake JuradoHoquiam (St. Ives) :: Short and sweet and beautiful. My only gripe with this record… well, it wasn’t made available on CD, and the vinyl didn’t include a free download code for the mp3’s. Industry standard practice aside, the Jurado brothers put out some fantastic music. I borrowed a vinyl-to-mp3 device from my friend; so I could enjoy it on my iPod as well. So, my gripes have been abated.
ElleryThis Isn’t Over Yet (Set Adrift) :: Ellery is one of my favorite things in Cincinnati… I miss being able to see them multiple times a year (sad face). Husband/wife duo of Justin & Tasha Golden craft singer-songwriter pop songs… usually layered nicely on their albums with the help of producer, knob-twiddler Ric Hordinski (of Over the Rhine fame). This album, they switched it up with Malcolm Burn at the helm (Daniel Lanois / Bob Dylan / Iggy Pop / Kaki King / Emmylou Harris / etc).
Nellie McKayHome Sweet Mobile Home (Verve) :: Nellie McKay’s move to Verve (instead of Sony) has been good for her. They seem to give her free reign to put out Doris Day cover albums one year and an album of originals the next. HSMH is a return to the quirky, diverse collection of songs that drove me to fall in love with her. The album is full of Nellie’s modern piano jazz-pop, ukulele ditties, and even a pro-animal reggae tune. The album has grown on me nicely, and I’m looking forward to more Nellie in the near future. She seems to be in a period of prolificity as of late. This is greatly welcomed.
JónsiGo (XL) :: Sigur Rós-frontman’s debut solo album was going to be an acoustic affair, and then it turned into a lushly produced, Rós-ian opus with a multimedia firestorm of a tour (two U.S. legs with stunning stage design by 59 Productions). Jónsi is superbly brilliant and and ambivalently hyper-sensitively shy individual (ex. his abrupt cancellation of in-store performance tour) and boisterous-acting performer (ex. his magnificent stageshow). This album makes me excited for more solo work in the future, but I hope his day job with Sigur Rós is not on hold for too much longer.
Sarah Kirkland Snider & Shara WordenPenelope (New Amsterdam) :: Chamber pop featuring Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) is a theme this year (see #10). Quite frankly, I think Shara Worden has one of the best voices in indie rock. Period. Sarah Kirkland Snider is a new musical force for me… she originally wrote Penelope as music for a theater piece and then debuted it as a song cycle with Signal in May 2009. When Shara came aboard, Sarah revised and expanded the songs yet again, tailoring them to Shara’s talents and arranging them for a 25-person orchestra of strings, harp, percussion, drums, electric guitar and bass, and electronics (with sound design by Michael Hammond). It is gorgeous.
Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty) :: His second album of the year, The Age of Adz is a odd musical assembly. At first I didn’t know what to think of it, then I started to like it, and then after seeing him live – I truly loved the album. For those previously familiar with Sufjan, this album may not fit easily in with his prior albums – but I think if you have an open mind and a desire to explore, you may very well fall in love with this record as well.
Mike PattonMondo Cane (Ipecac) :: Mike Patton of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantômas, et cetera is known for more boisterous, left of center fare. With Mondo Cane, he classes up the joint that is Ipecac Records. Mondo Cane, named after the film, is Mike’s homage to 50s Italian pop songs. He croons some classic Italian songs with the backing of the Orchestra Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini conducted by Aldo Sisillo. The artwork, in both CD digipack and vinyl, is stupendous. This is a magnificent record – both aurally and visually.

Top 20 instrumental albums coming up later this week…

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Kevin MooreShine

SKS & MBD’s “Lotus Eaters” video from ‘Penelope’

3rd Nov 10 (Wed) Leave a comment

I got Penelope in the mail yesterday… wow, I love it.  It’s the piece of art that Sarah Kirkland Snider wrote with the voice Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) in mind.  The video for “The Lotus Eaters” just got released.  It’s a haunting, lovely song that I think is a cornerstone of the album.  You know, the album that’s only been in my hands for 12 hours.  I can’t get enough of it. :)

The Lotus Eaters


video by Murat Eyuboglu + David Sarno

Shara was 7 months pregnant when it was being filmed.  Penelope is out now.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful, gorgeous, gorgeous record.  Shara’s operatic-meets-indie-rock voice rule the day.  Go get it from Amazon or from New Amsterdam Records directly.

~Dan – np: Sarah Kirkland Snider & Shara WordenPenelope

Shara Worden & Sarah Kirkland Snider – Penelope

12th Oct 10 (Tue) 4 comments

On October 18th, at (le) Poisson Rouge in NYC, Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) will be performing the music of Sarah Kirkland Snider backed by yMusic, a six piece chamber ensemble with violinist Rob Moose at the helm (who has played on MBD’s albums).

The album, entitled Penelope (which comes out on October 26th) is a 60-minute song cycle composed by Snider for Worden and the orchestral group, Signal, based on texts by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, derived from the music theater piece of the same name she and Snider wrote together in 2007-2008.

Here is a free taste: “This is What You’re Like” mp3

Penelope is up for pre-order on the Amazons

The songs loosely tell a story: A woman’s husband appears at her door after an absence of 20 years, suffering from brain damage. A veteran of a modern war, he doesn’t know who he is and she doesn’t know who he’s become. While they wait together for his return to himself, she reads him Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, and in the journey of that book, she finds a way into her former husband’s memory and the terror and trauma of war.

Oh, and sorta related to My Brightest Diamond… her labelhead, Sufjan Stevens‘ new album The Age of Adz comes out today, and it’s on special deal over at the Amazons.  $3.99 for the download version (for a limited time).

But it’s also out on CD & vinyl, and you know those are better for your diet anyway. :)

~Dan – np: Holy FuckLatin

no free mp3 download or flac torrent ever. if you like music, support it by buying it

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