What does Vienna Teng sound like?
Sublime and inventive piano pop for poetic thinkers.
The review of Vienna Teng – Waking Hour 2001 Original Tracks
20 years ago ‘Waking Hour’, the debut album from piano pop singer-songwriter Vienna Teng was launched. It holds a special place in my own musical journey as Vienna was one of the first musicians I discovered online and ordered music from. I remember burning CD mixtapes for friends to introduce them to new music and from the old mp3.com days, Vienna’s music was front and centre. To mark its 20th anniversary, she has released four tracks from an early 2001 session. These recordings weren’t used on the final release and so they act as alternative versions to tracks we know and love.
The truest to the final recording is ‘The Tower’. This anthemic album opener retains its striding piano riffs, strong building choruses and soaring vocal as it reaches its finale. What has changed is the percussion. It isn’t the final, live drumming that the released version has. There is a little more rigidity to it although I can’t personally tell if the track is drum tracked or still played live. Regardless, the track is still iconic. Just as iconic is the stunning piano solo version of ‘Gravity’. The released version has a whole band driving an explosive piano pop chorus but here, the cascades of the piano are left emboldened to shine in their nakedness. I adore the released version but this stripped-back approach is superb too.
Almost unrecognisable is ‘Enough To Go By’. What became a sunny bossa nova gone country tinged uptempo number is a rowdy rock n roll country track! With bold acoustic guitar strums, crisp country twangs and a whole bar of singers wailing together for the chorus, the song is so different. I imagine this track was born out of the live bar music scene as it is designed for a sing-along. Lots of early 2000 hyper-excitable spoken word zips around in between verses and chorus and the skipping beat of the final version is a standard 4-bar stride. The closing track is one that was never released. ‘Waking Hour’ is an instrumental piano piece which will sound very familiar to Vienna Teng fans. The main reoccurring piano riff became the song ‘Harbour’. Hearing it with a classical and broody middle section before returning to its triumphant melody to close out give a fascinating insight into the life cycle of a song.
That is my main takeaway from diving into these songs. By showing us songs in their infancy, we can connect with them if different ways and see them in different lights. If Vienna Teng has released these versions instead, they’d have still been great songs. I’m delighted they gestated for a while longer though to become their fully formed selves in 2002. Fascinating, and a must-have for fans.
Recommended track: Gravity
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