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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Patricia Barber
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
Prairie Dog Ballet
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Andy Timmons Band
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Rising Stars [Issue #7]
Vienna Teng: Pop Sensibilities
Warm Strangers (CD Virt)

When was the last time an album hijacked your expectations - in a good way? Vienna Teng’s Warm Strangers may well do that. On her second release, the 25-year -old singer-keyboardist explores themes of despair, death, loneliness, life challenges, and her Chinese heritage, while deftly shifting tempos and musical styles.

While her success seems to be happening quickly, with appearances on TV and public radio and her first album, Waking Hour, hitting Number 5 on Amazon’s list, Vienna (she named herself for the Austrian city’s legacy of composers) has been preparing for a musical career since childhood. She requested piano lessons at age five, wrote her first songs at age six, and wrote most of the songs on her first album while attending Stanford as a computer science major. Despite a growing on-campus reputation as a songwriter, she took a programming job and kept it until she was sure she could support herself through music.

“Being a software engineer helped,” says Vienna, “because I was able to launch into a career without being in dire financial straits.” Even after leaving Silicon Valley, she had savings from her job that she could fall back on.

Like many performers today, Vienna used the Internet to her advantage. Seattle-based Virt Records sent a scout to one of her shows. “But the way they found out about me originally was from a number of favorable reviews on music-related web sites that referred to my website. They were able to download MP3s of my work.”

While her first album was described as autobiographical, Warm Strangers delves more into the adventures of fictional characters, such as the mysterious “Anna Rose,” who is “based on a real person but it might as well be fictional because I’ve never met her.” “Shasta” is the story of a traveling pregnant woman and “Homecoming” deals with a self-styled preacher. On the other hand, “Mission Street” is an evocation of the San Francisco street where Vienna lives. “It’s a very noisy place. There are all kinds of sounds and we tried to recreate the experience - sounds of emptying trash, arguing.” Vienna lists one of the track’s instruments as “a bag of bottles.”

“Passages” is the album’s dramatic highlight, a description of life continuing after the death of its young narrator in a car crash. Vienna was initially afraid the song, which she sings a capella, would cause listeners to skip over the track. But positive responses from those who heard her perform it live convinced her to include it. “If [people] are in the right frame of mind to hear it, I think it’s important that it’s on there.”

Warm Strangers will be dropping in stores on February 24 with a U.S. tour to follow. Vienna explains the album’s seemingly oxymoronic title: “We pass through each other’s lives so briefly that it’s easy to think of the people around us as mere objects, cold and removed. Writing songs is my way of breathing life into them.”

Warm Strangers

Pop Sensibilities Vienna Teng Warm Strangers

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