I have forgotten how I found Vienna Teng in the first place. It must have been while browsing the artist suggestions on Bandcamp, which I tend to do, if I find the time and have no more work to do. I often zap through the releases having a quick listen to the featured song. I know that doing so makes me miss most of the good parts in most of the releases, but there is so much to listen to and so little time.
When I was thrown into “Level UP”, I was at first indifferent, but about a minute into the song that changed rapidly. I was hooked by the melody, intrigued by the lyrics and the dynamic of the song and absolutely thrown to the ground by the voice of this amazing singer.
So I decided to stay and listen to more of the songs, which I would recommend for you to do now, too. You are in for a treat. I will try to explain what made me buy this, but it is not going to be easy.
Vienna Teng is the stage name of California born Cynthia Yih Shih, who briefly was a software developer for Cisco Systems but chose to change her focus from the keys of a computer keyboard to those of a stage piano. I think, that Cisco Systems needs great developers, but at least as much we need her music. She herself lists many influences on her music - very popular ones that is. Elton John or Tori Amos were the ones I was thinking of, too.
Her album “Aims” was released in September 2013, so it has already been out there for some time. Nonetheless I think if features a pretty timeless style. It contains eleven songs, very different to fit into eleven genres. The Bandcamp tags on the album page list the album as “pop” and “singer songwriter” but I think this is way too general even though it is hard to be more specific without destroying the spirit of this great piece of music.
Let us talk a little about the songs. Even though it is hard for me to pick favorites when I like all the songs, I like some a little more than the others.
I do not want to concentrate too much on taking all the fun out of discovering the album yourself but a few things stand out.
The album is full of great and dynamic vocals. Most lyrics tell a deep story and are colorful and full of pictures that are not at all worn off. Many songs that use the whole acoustic spectrum (I recommend full range headphones) and the number of recognizable stylistic elements is much higher than the number of songs on the album. There is a capella (here), an EDM-laced encouraging love song (here), an emotional melancholic relationship story on piano (here), a Rhodes ballad with intriguing rhythms and cinematic appeal (here), and a lot of other stuff.
Her trademark is not hard to pinpoint: Combining a great voice, great innovative musical inspiration and ideas for lyrics that are spot on.
About the technical stuff: This is a very well produced studio piece. The mastering is good, the mixing is, too. It is a pleasure to listen to. It is rare for me to find something this great to then find out it is as well produced as this one. If you think you can do better with the mixing, there are two mixing stems available for Close to Home and Never Look Away. I do not know the terms and conditions and have not had a go with them but I also do not feel the need to right now. It is great as it is.
Over all I was amazed by the album, I like it very much and it is always a pleasure to listen to. It does not get boring even after hours. I would like to hear more of this very soon and I hope she makes more of this great music.
Again - thank you for reading, enjoy listening and discover more great music, so I do not have to :).