VIENNA TENG > Inland Territory
Piano-pop enchantress Vienna Teng beguiles listeners, yet again, with her fourth Rounder Records release, Inland Territory. The weighty album is anchored by the robust and atypical “Grandmother Song.” Here, Teng, as always, exhibits cool control of her impressive vocal range. But, impassioned and armed with lyrics that are deeply personal, she belts out rapid-fire, satirical lyrics taking on familial expectations and generational conflicts close to home. Accompanied by a full-bodied chorus of claps, stomps, and layered backing vocals, it’s a departure from the delicate delivery of most of the album’s 12 tracks. The contemplative gem “No Gringo,” paints a picture of longing with a story that’s relevant and broadly felt across the contemporary social landscape. While politicians frequently pay lip service to the potent issue of immigration, Teng tackles it via song. Using sharp images of razor wire and fences that split families, Teng solely penned this tune of tragic goodbyes, and she plays piano with an intimate understanding of the pain of separation. Guest guitarist Kaki King contributes to the melodic dynamics here and elsewhere on the disc. Orchestral elements abound as well: lush strings, doleful horns, plaintive woodwinds and sweeping choral arrangements pad the brilliant, introspective diary of an album.