Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Vienna Teng 

Warm Strangers

Wednesday, Apr 7 2004
Let's put this out on the table right off the bat: Local singer/songwriter Vienna Teng sounds like everyone else. Warm Strangers, her second album, opens with the rolling, offbeat accents of vintage Tori Amos piano on the pensive "Feather Moon." The easy, sunny-day acoustic guitar of an Emily Saliers-penned Indigo Girls tune on "Mission Street" gives the Mission a Starbucks-like hue. The gothic intensity of "My Medea," with its esoteric English horn and prepared piano, is reminiscent of Kate Bush -- or perhaps Evanescence minus the goth rock (which is pretty much the same thing as Kate Bush). The chunky, upbeat chords and everyday-life lyricism of "Shasta (Carrie's Song)" bring to mind Carole King -- or perhaps Vanessa Carlton had she been inundated with Brill Building pop in the womb (which is pretty much the same thing as Carole King).

A couple of exceptions break up this quintessential college girl's soundtrack. 1) A few classical references (a bit of Pachelbel on "Anna Rose"; a lovely, thinly veiled hint of Debussy on "Feather Moon") and a hidden track that's something like Sarah Brightman singing a Chinese folk song with Lion King-era Elton John on keys, defy the limitations of Teng's dorm-rat tastes. 2) "Passage," despite a rather clunky lyrical theme ("I died in a car crash two days ago") and the always-precarious decision to do an a cappella track, manages to crawl under one's skin and diffuse a breathtaking, utter loneliness in viruslike fashion (that is, if viruses were pretty, haunting young slips of things).

But there's only so much comparing and contrasting one can do before arriving at a big, fat "So what?" Warm Strangers is essentially a mix tape for Teng's girlfriends. It's not anything boldly new. It is, however, as simple and familiar as an afternoon on the quad, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure -- just like a good, friendly mix tape should be.

About The Author

Rachel Devitt


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"