For those who haven’t heard her, Buenos Aires-now-Brooklyn vocalist Tei Shi starts her debut album Crawl Space with the most humble of introductions: a track of her kid self learning to record for the very first time. “I put in the cassette, close the little door for the cassette, press record, and ‘play’ will automatically press,” says her young, clear voice under her father’s supervision. “Then I start talking next to this microphone, and it will record. Thank you.”
“I had found that part, and a bunch more snippets from cassette tapes I used to record myself on as a kid,” writes Valerie Teicher, who pulled the name “Tei Shi” from a riff on Jay-Z and her own last name. The opening track “way to record” is one of several time capsules planted throughout the partly nostalgic album. As for that particular recording with her father, Teicher writes, “We had just recently moved to Canada from Colombia, and there is this mix of English and Spanish being spoken between us (which we still do), but it captured that moment in time for me when I was forming my identity.”
But from these cassettes, an expert, forward-thinking album flows. Aside from the sentiment of young Teicher professing her goal of becoming Britney Spears onto cassette and into Crawl Space, the album is largely packed with polished pop and precise pitch. Teicher tells AP that “Justify“–what this tiny writer considers the albums “biggest banger”–is her personal favorite to perform live at the moment. As long as we’re giving suggestions, the vocals on that track in conjunction with “How Far” should provide enough reason to get you to Great Scott this Thursday.
It’s ultimately Tei Shi’s mix of the old and the undetermined new that grounds Crawl Space. Alongside us, Teicher listens to the tapes of her artistic genesis while also facing North. “Every time I look over my shoulder, I’m getting older,” are the first sung words on the album, followed by “Time is so sad. Tie me to it.” The pain, fun and sheer inevitability of growth provide something to tackle in this album, and in us all. To overcome this, Teicher anchors her music in childhood–”where I feel I was the most unleashed version of myself”–and launches up and over.
Tei Shi plays Great Scott with Salt Cathedral Thursday 5/11. Doors are at 9 p.m. Tickets at $14.