One night in January 2003, I caught San Francisco native Vienna Teng performing “Gravity,” off her 2002 debut, Waking Hour, on television. The piece was beautiful, and although Letterman has never been Conan O’Brien in terms of his choice of musical performances, his praise of Teng’s album (“I’ve heard the entire CD, and there’s not a dud on this”) was dead on. The music on her third studio album, Dreaming Through the Noise, is as simple and gratifying as anything she’s ever put out, only better.
The first two songs, “Blue Caravan” and “Whatever You Want,” may draw parallels to Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant, but her distinct style on “I Don’t Feel So Well” will dispel critics from making those comparisons. The Stanford grad approaches a range of topics, including her hometown’s decision to allow same-sex unions, on “City Hall” (“If they take it away again someday/ This beautiful thing won’t change”). Teng, a former engineer at Cisco Systems, dedicates “Pontchartrain” to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, showing her to be more than another female artist singing about love and past relationships. Other standouts, including “Nothing Without You” and closer “Recessional,” help make Dreaming Through the Noise Teng’s most complete album to date.
In the past, Teng has shared the stage with Duncan Sheik and Shawn Colvin, and although she has yet to attain the mainstream success as those artists have, her discography proves she has more than enough talent to deserve such attention.