In 2013, Vienna Teng released one of our favorite albums of the year – the confident, mature and enthralling Aims. It’s her strongest, most cohesive effort to date, even though Teng had already amassed a very impressive discography since her 2002 debut. Whereas many expected her to continue along her piano-driven, acoustically-anchored route, she took the best parts of her songwriting and infused it with synths, drum machines, vocal looping and gigantic strings. This could be recipe for disaster from such a beloved chamber-pop singer, but with Teng’s unfaltering, razor sharp musical intuition and the help of some accomplished collaborators like producer Cason Cooley, multi-instrumentalist Alex Wong and fellow performer Glen Phillips, they put together a truly remarkable album.
This past September, just before the release of Aims, Glide Magazine had the distinct pleasure of filming a session with Vienna Teng at the renowned Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. One of the songs she chose was “The Hymn of Acxiom,” which very much serves as the centerpiece and backbone of the album.
“When I was touring my last record [Inland Territory], I was having a good time with it, but I also felt like if music and I were in a romantic relationship, we’d gotten to that old married couple stage,” recalls Teng, during our session. “I would sit down at the piano at two in the morning, and just be bored with my own ‘girl-at-the-piano’ self, so I had to figure out some other way into it, and I ended up stepping away from the piano quite a bit.”
One of the first fully-formed results of this shift in focus was “The Hymn of Acxiom,” which she’s described as “sacred music for Big Data.” Written from the voice of a global marketing database, the song’s choir entreats the user in a loving, caring way – ascribing human characteristics to machines that are constantly harvesting data points about our every online action, and all the virtual things we engage, purchase and consume as a way of better understanding who we are. Creepy, haunting and stark, it’s one of the most breath-taking and daring pieces of pop music written in recent memory.
Watch the debut of our “Glide Magazine Presents” video series – Vienna Teng performing “The Hymn of Acxiom”