album reviews

Vienna Teng
Inland Territory
Zoe Records (2009)

It's a shame that Vienna Teng's fourth album, "Inland Territory," is about a decade late for the Lilith Fair music festival: Her sweet, piano-driven music would have fit in perfectly alongside the female musicians spotlighted in the late 1990s, including Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole and the Cardigans. (Although maybe she can be part of the just-announced return of Lilith Fair in 2010.)

Teng even sounds a bit like McLachlan on the textured "Antebellum," whose lyrics draw a subtle metaphor between a relationship gone sour and a war; the gentle timbre of her voice belies the emotional scars in the song's story, making them all the more poignant when the melody evolves into a duet with co-producer Alex Wong. Album-opener "The Last Snowfall" pops and crackles like a vinyl record, as Teng bemoans the end of winter -- and possibly the end of a relationship.

"Territory" isn't always so melancholy: "Grandmother Song" is a feisty look at her life from her grandmother's perspective ("This music career isn't real life"), propelled by a hand-clapped and stomped rhythm. And her skittering piano chords on "Stray Italian Greyhound" capture the giddy feeling of falling in love.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 8 May 2009, Page WE08
.: Inland Territory on