Downtown Records/Arts & Crafts
Just because it’s pop doesn’t mean it isn’t cool to like it. Argentine-Brooklyn indie pop star Tei Shi, has been on the rise for quite some time now, with a string of singles to make this full-length release one of note. Bringing an alt-pop approach not dissimilar to Danish artist MØ (who she happens to be touring with) mixed in with a touch of Melody’s Echo Chamber tone and Solange’s delivery, she truly carries a unique sound that feels refreshing in a never-ending see of more generic music. In this first LP from Valerie Teicher, there’s a gifted pop star on the verge of bridging the alt and mainstream crowds beautifully.
Flowing together with the cute “Way To Record” that recalls the old sound clips used on early White Stripes material, “Keep Running” is a soothing slow jam that slowly builds to an emotional track packed with harmonies and pop hooks. The robotic but siren-like “Creep” is alluring in its deep groove and overtly silky vocals, working on multiple levels to deliver a sonic banquet. The ripping distorted guitar that cuts through the song whets the pallet for the fat sax lines that bring heavy attitude to its final push making for a powerful finale.
“Baby” calls out to the Tame Impala & Melody’s Echo Chamber sounds in its colourful guitar tones and deliciously recorded drum sounds, and the harmonies that Teicher places on top are delicious sugar. The glistening guitar lines as well as the quirky sounding voice-tracks make for a incredibly immersive track, elevated by the masterful sound. Driving this sound in a different direction, “How Far” takes this to an R&B place with a dash of St. Vincent’s brutal distortion. The track’s dark finale, with sky-high harmonies and Teicher’s endless emotion make for a track that really goes in its final moments.
The straightforward pop of “Say You Do” works in the midst of the more engaging pop around it thanks to the overwhelming amount of detail Teicher adds with background vocals, and the quieter bridge is delightfully enticing. The Prince-infused “Justify” is a raucous listen with the overtly sexual tone the song carries, while very clearly emulating the late pop-god in the best of ways. The descending melody runs are both creepy and catchy, and when mixed with her vocal experimentation makes for a boundary pushing listen.
Going for a more jazz-styled delivery on “Lift Me” the heavenly harmonies and discordant chords soon set it on its own path. Jumping into a familiar but unique round of harmonious melodies and saxophone the track soon becomes a swirl of life and a non-stop bounce of joyous sound making for an iconic album moment in its latter half. Switching to her native Spanish on “Como Si”, the vocals get even more velvety than before, taking a more basic backing track and letting the hypnotic vocals take centre stage.
Shifting to a darker, more aggressive pop “Crawl” has a looming danger to it. The layered handclaps, intimidating bass and guitar moments recall a layer of experimentation usually reserved for a Janelle Monáe-type make it all the better. The nostalgic-filled guitar notes of “Year 3K” reminisce of better times, while her consistently strong uses of harmonies mixed with her abrasive melodies makes for a song that you have to hear to truly grasp. The absurd way she builds progressions into intense moments works so surprisingly well it’s truly hard to imagine this is her first full-length release.
The ambient opening to “Your World” quickly opens up for hefty dance beat, underlined by a subdued guitar line for something beautifully mysterious. Her almost child-like switch on the bridge is cutely reserved before the swell she brings to the song’s final push. For all its simplicity, the vocal touches and backing notes of “Sleepy” give its first half an intriguing pull. But going into its second half the warped but heft bass lines bring an emotional darkness, and make her following harmony loops all the more effective, delivering an emotional punch to the gut right at the record’s end.
Truly this first LP from Tei Shi is a wonder, and brings so much attention to detail on its genre-spanning pop that it works on multiple levels and will appeal to a lot of different ears. Each song takes a unique path to startling ends for a record that feels like it never stops giving. Utterly shattering the expectations of a first release, this nearly perfect album brings the pop revelation you didn’t know you needed, with more clever tricks and memorable moments than many late career releases.
review by Owen Maxwell