Funny, I just now got around to reading this thread, and noticed the consternation over some of the "professional" reviews in the early pages and the call for fans to pick up the torch and write their own reviews, and I thought, "Hey, should give them a link to the review I wrote." And here it is, already posted for me, much to my surprise. Thanks for that! (And please ignore my lyric misquotes and my lazy misinterpretation of "St. Stephen's Cross". I wasn't able to get my hands on an official copy of the album until the show I went to this week, so I had to rely on Internet lyric sites to quote passages from the album, and clearly those were less than accurate.)
Here's the thing about reviews. Any review from a fan perspective, much as we may try to be unbiased, is likely to compare her present work to her past work. It's probably going to be written with a slant of, "Will you like this if you liked her past stuff?" It's very difficult, if not impossible, for someone like me, who has been convinced that Vienna is a genius for several years now, to listen with the fresh mind of an outsider. I don't know how someone completely new to Vienna's music would receive an album like Inland Territory
. Truthfully, it may not be the best place for them to start, unless their tastes are eclectic to begin with.
That said, I just don't know what some of these critics are being led to expect. Particularly the ones who complain about stuff like "clutter". Maybe it's the endless Sarah Maclachlan comparisons. She's a chick and she plays the piano, therefore she's expected to make only tranquil and pretty music with a minimum of sounds coming from instruments other than hers? This is a very limiting expectation for Vienna as an artist. I like her because she came from that piano-based singer songwriter genre but has always been dedicating to thinking outside the box. This was even true on her first album, which did follow the very simple piano-and-voice template on several songs and which was fairly mellow overall, but even that one had the occasional curveball like "Unwritten Letter #1". A little time taken to consider context would be helpful before critics bash her for hiding behind other instruments or production choices.
And for that matter, I am truly sick and tired of critics who can't handle layered production, as if it's somehow sacreligious to have an array of different things going on at once in a song. I realize it's a matter of personal preference. But personally, I get rather bored with the whole indie/lo-fi/minimalist thing. There's enough going on creatively in Vienna's recordings that it should be apparent to the listener that the various sounds were either her choice or a collaborative choice made with the producer to use instruments and sounds that fit the song, not just some record label exec trying to overrun the sound of her true talent with a ton of bells and whistles just 'cause. Not all production is overproduction. Pull your heads out of your butts, indie snobs!
Oh, and while we're at it, most of Sarah Maclahlan's music bores the freaking hell out of me. So if you're a critic and that's the measuring stick you're using, please just don't bother with Vienna's music. You'll do us all a huge favor.