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Ambitious, tuneful album from Teng

Vienna Teng does her grandma proud on “Inland Territory.”

The album’s centerpiece, “Grandmother Song,” acknowledges family disapproval of the career path chosen by Teng, a former computer software engineer. Cisco Systems’ loss is music’s gain, as her fourth album reaffirms.

A first-generation Chinese-American, Teng displays new lyrical depth, creating compelling characters to eloquently explore such subjects as immigration (“No Gringo”), civil war (“Radio”) and revolution (“St. Stephen’s Cross”).

The music’s ambitious, too, yet always tuneful. It’s fun to imagine what grandma will make of “Grandmother Song,” a near-a cappella barnyard stomp. “In Another Life” is ornate chamber pop with the classically trained Teng backed by a bassoon and clarinets, and elsewhere a string orchestra and cathedral choir provide lovely support.

Teng’s piano anchors the arrangements, which echo keyboard artists ranging from Sarah McLachlan to Ben Folds. And all 12 songs benefit from her knack for writing melodies that allow her feathery soprano to shimmer, making “Inland Territory” beautiful software.

(Editor’s note: Teng plays at 7 p.m. Saturday at Club Congress.)


Vienna Teng

“Inland Territory” (Zoe)

Genre: chamber-folk

Grade: A

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