First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2004, Volume 11, #6
Written by John Metzger
Critics fawned over Vienna Tengís initial offering Waking Hour, and although it was a solid collection of well-performed, personal, and heartfelt songs, it sometimes became mired within its far too precious ambience. On her sophomore effort Warm Strangers, Teng expands her sonic pallette significantly in an attempt to build upon her classically-influenced, singer-songwriter formula while still retaining the ethereal beauty that effused her debut, and for the most part, she is successful. As a result, her elegant brand of chamber pop gains a heartier resonance through the lavish strings and horns that adorn many of her tender melodies. The opening Feather Moon blossoms with its orchestrated air, and on Mission Street, her hometown of San Francisco splendidly springs to life through her poetic lyrics and breathtakingly beautiful delivery. Unfortunately, there are moments on Waking Hour when Teng veers away from her Joni Mitchell-inspired tendencies in order to inhabit the realm of lighter folk-pop fare frequented by the likes of Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole, and while this direction undoubtedly makes Teng more marketable, itís here that she is least effective. Yet, with songs like the ghostly apparition conjured on the a cappella Passage and the uplifting joy found within the life-changing experience recounted on Shasta (Carrieís Song), Teng proves that her talent is undeniable and that itís only a matter of time until she crafts a collection completely devoid of inconsequentially generic filler, for even when she misses, she isnít off by much. Ĺ
Warm Strangers is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box