My favorite singer-songwriter, the “chick with a piano” that I come back to again and again, Vienna Teng, has a new album. It’s called Inland Territory, and I already adore it.
I’ve been waiting and worrying about this one for a long time. I love her first two albums. Over a period of years, I kept finding little parallels between my life and her songs. Maybe a better way of putting it is that I kept finding ways to map her music onto my life. I think I’ve heard it said before that people finding their own meaning in art is something that artists strive for. That almost never happens with me. I’m much too literal. I either can’t get past what I know or assume to be the artist’s literal meaning, or the poetry/imagery/etc. is abstract enough that I can’t make head or tail of it. Many of Vienna Teng’s songs fall somewhere in between for me. I mentioned my found meaning behind her song “Harbor” in another post here. I actually got to speak with her very briefly at a concert in Birmingham. During the show, she had described the song very differently than my interpretation, and I ended up telling her about mine. When she autographed my copy of Warm Strangers, she signed it, “Hi Jeff – the real ‘Harbor’ :)” (complete with smiley face).
Naturally I was excited about her third album, Dreaming Through the Noise, but I just didn’t feel the connection with it that I felt with the first two. It’s full of music that I objectively know to be beautiful, but it just didn’t grab me. I actually did map one of the songs onto some times from my past, but most of the songs just kinda went over my head (especially musically). I felt she had quite appropriately moved on, but I hadn’t kept up.
So, I was anxious when my pre-ordered copy of Inland Territory arrived. I needn’t have been. I’ll say right now that I haven’t quite digested the lyrics fully enough to know whether there is any personal meaning to be extracted (that takes a while), but I at least understand where the music is coming from. Better than that, she has totally hooked me musically with several of the songs. I won’t talk about them all right now, but my runaway favorite so far is named “Stray Italian Greyhound,” and now we finally get to the reason behind this post’s title.
The song has a groove. Teng always had a knack for using syncopation, and the “bridge” (or maybe “break”) sections in this song are full of it. The lyric she sings during that section condenses to “What do I do with a love that won’t sit still?” I love that lyric anyway (especially in the context of the song’s full meaning), but I almost can’t help myself from grooving to the syncopation. Thus, my mind ended up morphing the line into, “What do I do with a butt that won’t sit still?”
That and many other moments in the album just put a smile on my face. Either I caught up with her on this album, or she slowed down and let me catch up. I’m not sure which, but either way I love it. I’d hug her for it if I could.