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Waking Hour

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Album Review

Even with her initial, tentative performances while still a student at Stanford, Vienna Teng caused an immediate stir in the California singer/songwriter scene. She self-released her debut LP, Waking Hour, in spring 2001, but consistent Bay Area buzz, strong website sales, and Teng's captivating live show led to interest from Massachusetts indie Virt, which signed her in May 2002. Three of Waking Hour's tracks were then remixed for radio by David Henry (Yo La Tengo; Guster), and an extensive tour brought one of the Bay Area's best-kept secrets to nationwide ears. Teng is an extremely intellectual songwriter who fills the spare moments of her piano-driven songs with wordy unions of personal emotion and reflections on the seasons. While she possesses a powerful voice, it's her command of melody and her subtlety that really stand out on Waking Hour. The Henry-produced tracks — "Tower," "Gravity," and "Enough to Go By" — could be considered chamber pop, with their shuffling percussion and lush, quietly surging stings accentuating Teng's gorgeous vocals. At the same time, "Daughter" and "Lullaby for a Stormy Night" are as delicate as hand-blown glass. As heartwarming as the latter song is, where Teng harmonizes with a child's voice on the reassuring line "Everything's fine in the morning/The rain'll be gone in the morning/But I'll still be here in the morning," she's elegantly jaded in the arch, duskily toned "Daughter." "Did you know you're so beautiful on the edge of summer?" she asks in a resolute tone, and the song's slightly mournful yet sure-handed piano line seems to trace the fading lines of a dissolving relationship. After such a powerful yet achingly intimate statement, the processed Middle Eastern rhythms and electric guitar solo of "Between" are a bit overwrought; the added instrumentation tends to dilute Teng's strikingly mature songwriting. But this is by no means a slight, as Waking Hour is a confident debut that's startling in its emotional and intellectual depth, but never too brainy that it loses sight of melody and song structure.

Customer Reviews


Simply amazing with her piano, this CD is great to just sit and listen to over and over. Her lyrics and voice are incredible. "Gravity" def. tops the list.

Great singer

Great singer especialy live heard her last year for the first time and want to see her sing live again. But the CD is just as good if not better.


This album is a musical milestone. While at first seeming unbalanced being piano-dominated and largely slow-paced, each song is wrought with its own fiery intensity that only Vienna Teng's beautifully clear voice could reveal. At times her lyrics seem almost too poetic and abstract to have a credible meaning, but underneath they have a passionate sophistication that appeals to all emotions. They range from as specific as a story line to misty ambiguousness that only she is to understand. Teng consistently refers to the seasons, and the album evolves around a nuclear theme of family. Highlights: The Tower- a pulsating piano and drums with Teng's voice at its strongest. Gravity- even the most simple of Teng's piano parts is hauntingly beautiful. Eric's Song- words that could only come from the sincere heart that has experienced them. Soon Love Soon- utterly inspiring, and one of Teng's only uplifting tracks (a matter of opinion, really). "Soon Love Soon" may appear to be repetitive in its chorus, but it only serves to emphasize a global truth of unity. The brilliance of all thirteen tracks causes each one of them to be outshone; each song is a treasure, and I recommend buying the entire album, not select pieces. If you enjoy this album, you might also try the Itunes Exclusive, which show that her voice and power in these songs are not lost in a live performance. It not only includes two of her originals, but a cover of Damien Rice’s Cannonball, which is all the more stunning on piano.


Born: October, 1978 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s

Reaching the national spotlight at the end of 2002, pianist Vienna Teng had been an important part of the California singer/songwriter scene for a few years before then. A pianist since the age of five, Teng took piano lessons before moving on to improvisation. Writing feverishly throughout her youth, she eventually had a full album's worth of instrumentals by the age of 16. Going to Stanford to further her education, she released an EP while going to school and recorded most of Waking Hour before...
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