Waking Hour

Vienna Teng

Soltruna Records, 2002

http://www.viennateng.com

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/21/2020

Vienna Teng is a lot of things.

She’s a musician. She’s a software engineer – she started recording music at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, and worked for Cisco Systems until her music career took off. She was salutatorian of her high school class. She has studied classical piano since age five. Songwriter, theatrical writer, and polymath, she is not easily quantified.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Which is, frankly, fine. It means that you never quite know what you’re going to get with her, though so far, everything has met a high standard of quality and integrity. She came out of the gate running with her 2002 debut, Waking Hour.

Teng is very, very fond of harmony and multi-layered vocals; she was a member of Stanford’s a cappella group, and it shows. On this release, she stays firmly in the singer-songwriter vein, mostly single voice and piano. If her style is reminiscent of anyone’s, it’s Tori Amos. Where Amos wears her emotions on her sleeve, however, Teng is more diffident, subtle, and withdrawn; the power is still there, but this is a more veiled take on the same territory. As a complement, her piano playing is virtuoso. She does things on Waking Hour that make me stop and replay a short sequence, especially when combined with her supple, versatile voice.

For me, the highlights are “The Tower” and “Enough To Go By”; fans of our “101 Favorite Songs (More Or Less)” series know that those two tracks showed up on my list there. But really, the entire album is solid, front to back. If I had to pick some other favorites, it would be “Momentum,” “Gravity,” and the smoky-club “Unwritten Letter #1.” If there is a flaw to Waking Hour, it’s that sometimes the production is so precise and delicate that it loses force; “Daughter” is hard to hear compared to the other tracks on the CD.

Vienna Teng is supremely gifted and an amazing performer. Pick this one up today.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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