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Sound Bite: Vienna Teng's 'Inland Territory'

Singer-songwriter ambitiously explores musical range in fourth album


Vienna Teng

Inland Territory

(Zoe/Rounder, 2009)

Release date: April 7, 2009

Three and a half out of four stars

This isn’t your older sister’s Vienna Teng.


While many artists either explore a more experimental sound or delve into the popular mainstream as their careers progress, Teng decided to dip her pen into both inkwells. Thankfully, it succeeded. Teaming with producer Alex Wong, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter reinvents her sound in her fourth full-length album, Inland Territory, mixing more pop-rock-infused ballads with folksy and soulful tracks.


The most distinctive difference in her latest effort is the stronger, more noticeable presence of a band. While she has hints of this in the past with songs such as “Gravity” and “Harbor,” the richness of her piano always permeated in her music.


“White Light,” the first single off the album, features more of an electronic sound with the use of synthesizers and electric guitar riffs. “Stray Italian Greyhound” opens like a traditional Teng track her bright vocals laced over a flowing piano melody. But a minute into the song, hi-hats and sweeping strings enter, adding richness as the piano speeds up.


As those songs adopt more of a pop sound, Teng travels the opposite direction with several tracks. “In Another Life” features a deep woodwind instrument keeping rhythm as Teng’s vocals weave through light piano strikes and harmonic clarinets. “Grandmother Song” relies heavily on fast-paced stomps and claps with gentle strings adding to the background while she sings the advice her grandmother gave her.


While there are many changes in Teng’s sound, her ability to create imaginative narratives through her lyrics stay the same. “Radio” is absolutely engrossing as she takes on the persona of someone from San Francisco who sees her city torn up.


With Inland Territory, Teng ambitiously tries to explore the depth of her musical range, creating an album that not only encompasses intricate lyrics, but aurally pleasing melodies.


Download this track: "Stray Italian Greyhound"


For more about Vienna Teng, go to www.viennateng.com.

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