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Vienna Teng – “Inland Territory” Review

Vienna Teng continues to know no bounds with her fourth album Inland Territory which manages to sound similar without retreading old ground or ever becoming stale. This partly because Teng’s vocals are silky smooth like a breath of fresh air, and the fact that all the songs on this album are absolutely captivating.

Opening with “The Last Snowfall”, Vienna relies on atmosphere and delicate vocal delivery to set the mood. This opener is beautiful and almost Christmas like without the holiday cheer. Wintry but in a warm log fire cabin way than an icy cold way. This gives way to “White Light” which is an up-tempo number. In each of the opening tracks its not piano but organ that dominants the track. “White Light” also contains a lot of electronic embellishments which really set the song off and the chorus is rousing.

Next up is the flowing elegance of “Antebellum” which is contender for favourite song on the album. The piano just keeps rolling, along with the percussion and sumptuous vocals. Her co-producer adds his own vocals towards the end which you’ll either love or hate but personally I think it goes perfectly. One of the finest songs in Vienna’s catalogue – as is in fact “Kansas” which is a slow baron piece with muted percussion and just minimal electric piano. It’s really very effective and heart wrenching.

Lightening the mood somewhat is “In Another Life” and the absolutely swinging round the kitchen table “Grandmother Song”. Both have a certain charm to them, the former a kind of bopping 20’s wind and brass backing and the latter is a finger clicking hand clapping country jig. While neither have particularly happy lyrics they are unique strings to Vienna’s every increasing bow of extraordinary talent.
“Stray Italian Greyhound” is next up returning to a fantastically catchy piano led band track with a chorus to die for and perky verses. However when it climaxes into its middle section the song takes full form and it just hits the spot perfectly. Following up in piano rock track “Augustine” which is simple but powerful and one to sing along to whilst driving along – very empowering.

“No Gringo” is the longest track of the album and fully deserves every second. From the slow enveloping piano intro you’re held captivated by the story being told. Gradually the slow builds into a final frenzied bursting climax where Vienna cries “No Gringo Aqui” before it all slips away again in a sloping upset. It’s really like building for the battle, losing and crawling away. A fantastic track.

“Watershed” is the slow smoky aftermath of No Gringo in my opinion and they fit perfectly together. This dark brooding song is all about the ambience and the sting in the tail. It leads into the quirky “Radio” which is like a schizophrenic song that doesn’t sit still and jumps around like a cat on speed. I personally really enjoy it but it may require a couple of listens to get into it for some. The album closes with “St. Stephens Cross” which is beautiful serene track that soothes you to sleep with understated swaying euphoria.

Inland Territory is a self assured fantastic album from an artist on top form and comfortable with herself and her style. By just moving her styles and sounds around slightly, Vienna is able to keep everything fresh whilst not alienating her core fans by being stale. Without doubt its in my top three releases of 2009 and just continues to grow upon each listen. A treat for all.

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