Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Dreaming Through The Noise" by Vienna Teng

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Vienna Teng
Title: Dreaming Through The Noise
Released: 2006
Genre: piano singer-songwriter mellow pop


I heard the song Feather Moon from 2004's Warm Strangers on one of those indie acoustic radio shows that play on Sunday mornings and I was immediately enchanted by it--so I went to the record store to purchase it (this was before iTunes). They didn't have it, but they did have 2002's Waking Hour, so I purchased that instead and was, you guessed it, immediately enchanted. I've followed Vienna Teng's career closely ever since.

Teng describes her music as "chamber folk." Rooted in straightforward piano-pop, DTtN weaves together jazz arrangements, a dollop of bluegrass, and middle-eastern melodies to create a collection of fascinating stories. Topics range from renting a shitty apartment (1 Br / 1 Ba) to a dutiful housewife blowing the whistle on her husband's sketchy accounting (Whatever You Want) to couples lining up to get newly-legalized marriage licenses (City Hall). The album closer, Recessional, has what are in my opinion the best lyrics ever written. A sample:

She dreams through the noise, her weight against me, face pressed into the corduroy grooves. Maybe it means nothing... but I'm afraid to move.

And while I still dearly love her first two records, Dreaming Through The Noise is the first Vienna Teng album that feels completely whole. It has just enough production to give it a nice layer of polish and cohesion. By happenstance, I've heard her speak about this and she thinks some of the songs suffered by being forced to all share the same sonic space and mood. Her follow up Inland Territory was a reaction to this, in which she explicitly set out to write a "mix tape" of an album. By further happenstance, I was living in LA when this album came out and got to see her play it twice. I saw her do a preview show where she played the whole thing solo on piano and then a regular tour show as a jazz trio--both in an intimate little club setting.

Teng's music is intelligent, nuanced, impeccably precise, and astonishingly beautiful, and DTtN is her at her absolute best. It's hopeful and heartbreaking all at once, and full of little surprises that will catch your attention even after a dozen listens.

Further listening: If not for my pesky one-album-per-artist rule, Inland Territory would certainly be on this list. It's more experimental and more sonically diverse, and while it's damn near perfect, it's not quite as damn near perfect. Her previous albums mentioned above are great, but they feel a little underproduced, and her final album Aims is a little overproduced for my taste, but still quite good.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Albums

Hello all!

In an attempt to keep the old blog from atrophying, I'm going to try out a project a friend of mine did a few years ago and spend the year writing about some of my favorite albums. So over the next 50 weeks, you can expect a couple entries a week until we get to 100. Or until I run out of steam and give up. Whichever comes first.

The only rule I'm giving myself here is to limit things to one album per artist. If that would preclude other favorite albums from making the list, I'll note it, but I don't want the list to be completely overrun by Radiohead and the Beatles. I'm going to start at the top of the list (that is, with my #1 favorite), but the ordering is not super rigorous--especially beyond the first twenty or so.

I'll put a master list on a page that's easily accessible from the front and I'll probably throw in some supplemental stuff, like albums I loved as a child but can't really listen to anymore for various reasons or albums …

"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3)…

100 Albums: "Untitled (IV/Zoso)" by Led Zeppelin

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: untitled
Released: 1971
Genre: classic rock


Is there a more epic album opening than Black Dog? Plant screaming "Hey, Hey, Mama..." and a trio of musicians exploding into that proto-metal riff behind him? There's a reason Led Zeppelin is always included in discussions of who might be the greatest rock band of all time: Plant's bluesy wail, Bonham's impossibly huge drum sound, Page's guitar work--and tone, when people talk about "vintage guitar tone" they're talking about Jimmy Page--and Jones's bass and keys (bassists are the unsung heroes of rock, and Jones's bass work here is low-key phenomenal). They're an iconic band, and this is their most iconic album.

Officially untitled, but commonly referred to as either Zoso or IV, this record is not only their best-selling, but it contains their most well-known song, Stairway To H…