To be fair, up until recently, I hadn’t either. But then, through a Kickstarter campaign, she successfully funded her brand new album called Aims which I found out about through a friend of mine who recommended the album to me heartily.
Aims is Teng’s fifth album overall and easily stands out as her most upbeat to date, if not lyrically, then certainly sonically with the lead single “Level Up”, a big, sweeping and uplifting ode to getting over the problems in your past, rising above it and looking forward to the future.
The big, bright sound feels extremely empowering, the musical equivalent of a close friend telling you everything is going to be okay, and – by the rules of Hollywood – should be inserted as the accompanying soundtrack to a rom-com where a young woman engages in an uplifting montage.
While not every song is as uplifting as “Level Up”, the level of production never falters and ensures that everything remains an enjoyable aural experience. “Close to Home” is a gorgeous lo-fi-esque jam that is full of ambient production designed to make this perfect late night listening, while ‘In the 99’ is an electronic-influenced song full of squelchy beats, beatbox samples and Teng’s haunting vocals.
There are plenty of varied musical influences and sounds present on the album, which lend themselves well to Teng’s pop sensibilities – “Copenhagen (Let Me Go)” has a dramatic, almost country-flavored feel to it with big handclaps and a rousing chorus, while album standout “Never Look Away” shifts from upbeat pop to dancefloor ready at the drop of a hat and the album’s closer “Goodnight New York” is a chilled out, low-key and practically hypnotic finale.
The album’s duets are perhaps amongst the best tracks here, Teng having teamed up with talented musicians such as Glen Phillips and Alex Wong on “Landsailor” and “The Breaking Light”; the former is full of beautiful pianos and a mainstream pop sound while the latter is a gorgeous and atmospheric ballad. Also notable is the gospel-tinged electronic ode “Hymn of Acxiom” which is hauntingly beautiful.
Not every song on the album is a triumph, however – “Oh Mama No” is rather bland despite the gentle use of guitars and “Flyweight Love” utilizes xylophonic sounds to some memorable effect, but not enough to make this midtempo number a hit of its own accord.
However, the album is a big success and a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience for all those who either want their pop music a little more organic or just want to listen to a talented woman perform some amazing and affecting songs that come from the heart. Either way, Vienna Teng is one of the best, largely unrecognized talents out there and with albums like Aims, I can’t think of anyone who deserves huge success more than her.