An LP is a chance for an artist to take us by the hand through a landscape of their own, a world of distinct images, sounds, and motifs. Tei Shi’s debut LP Crawl Space is a journey that feels current, exciting and vulnerable. It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric work where Valerie Teicher (Tei Shi) layers breathy vocals over gritty, industrial electronics, going from sexy to exposed to defiant to angry and back again.
The album, like Lorde’s Melodrama last year, seems to capture the essence of the millennial generation (or I might be projecting…). Crawl Space opens with the gritty grimy “Keep Running,” a confident beckoning for a lover to step up to the plate and do their relationship right. It’s the perfect snapshot of our young mindset: we feel entitled to a responsible, functional relationship (“Don’t hesitate, don’t make me wait / If you want my loving then you better start running“) yet when we don’t get it, insecurity takes over. The stronger we plead as the song crescendoes, the more desperate we sounds.
Similar youthful contradictions come up in the second track “Creep,” alternating between falsetto and hushed low tones in a hypnotic repetition of another command: “Leave and go quietly.” And there’s a melancholy beauty in this struggle for control that everyone who’s tried to whip their life into shape can relate to.
The third track “Baby” strips away the empowered exterior and offers a nonchalant perspective to a failing relationship, serving jazzy sounds and consolations (“Even though I’m dryin’ up on patience /
You know I’m the same me, maybe“). There’s an honesty and young optimism that Tei Shi delivers even she’s evoking devastation.
The rest of the album loosely pursues the decay of this relationship. Stand-out track “Say You Do” is about a touching realization that the other person only perceives her from the outside. He or she hasn’t taken the time to take the relationship beyond its superficial surface, and Tei Shi is suffering because of this. One of the most poignant moments on the album happens in the bridge of the track:
And I never wanna ask of you
Anything that’s on my mind
Anything to show that I’m
Wanting more than the moment
No, I never wanna say to you
What I keep inside
‘Cause what I realized is
You don’t know me like you say you do
One more track that I feel like deserves to be addressed is “Lift Me“, which completely captures the inside of an anxious 20-something’s head in sound form. It’s a groovy party tune with syrupy synth melodies and a bubbly beat, yet the lyrics are anything but fun. The first verse poses a knotty problem: “What if I don’t know how to be my friend?” while the second attacks a certain someone “Yeah, you’re so fuckin’ real / Well, all your honesty’s just a brand / It makes me feel so anxious.” It’s an ode to the complicated subjective stories we navigate with our friends, on social media or while applying for jobs.
The takeaway is that we are all equally confused and uneasy about out lives, but we can embrace the feel-good moments and try to enjoy the rest for what it’s worth. And we can listen to this wonderful, empathetic collection of sultry vocals, vulnerable lyrics and soft grooves.
I didn’t find an appropriate place in this piece to incorporate the interludes of a young Valerie learning to record cassettes with her father, confessing to the world that she’s a bad girl and hoping to one day be like Britney Spears. They are super simple, but offer a sensual depth to the artist in front of our lives, and I’m living for them.
If you enjoyed the album and/or reading this post, let me know in the comments below. Complement Tei Shi with dreamy pop star Allie X’s latest offering and a long piece on how female pop stars lost and are regaining their voices.