Album review: ‘Crawl Space’ traces Tei Shi’s impressive growth

The opening track from indie pop songstress Tei Shi‘s much-awaited debut record Crawl Space puts you in the shoes of the Brooklyn-based Argentine as a child learning how to work a microphone.

“This is the way to record,” the reportedly nine- or ten-year-old Tei Shi says. “I put in the cassette, close the little door for the cassette, press record, and play will automatically press. Then I start talking next to this microphone and it will record.” It’s quite a trip to hear the rising pop star at her earliest stages of recording, with her dad offering words of guidance on how to use the equipment.

Later, on “Bad Singer,” Tei Shi laments not being very good. “I think I sing so great but I really never do anything right. I just hope one day I can be like Britney Spears.” Tei Shi has definitely achieved Britney-level amounts of swagger on this record, that’s for sure.

These recordings sprinkled throughout the record serve as an interesting contrast to her confidence on the musical tracks that make up Crawl Space (out Mar. 31 on Downtown Records). It’s one of the strongest alt-R&B synthpop records I’ve heard in the past year. After taking the world by storm with “Bassically” in 2014, the pop singer took her time to put together her debut full-length, and the time paid off.

“Shortly after we moved to Canada, I used to get really anxious at night and couldn’t fall asleep,” Tei Shi said in an interview with London in Stereo. “So I developed this ritual of going down to the crawl space in our house and just enclosing myself in there for a minute, facing this fear.”

The album’s two lead singles that have been dropped ahead of the release represent many of the strengths of the singer. The sexy riffs that open “How Far” sets the stage for Tei Shi’s sultry vocals nicely. The song “Baby” sounds like it would fit perfectly in a Vegas lounge act and shows just how much of a range Tei Shi possesses. She’s got a good mix of songs that have the potential to be club bangers, and a few that could be great bedroom fodder. That’s what I look for in a great R&B or alt-pop record.

The album is very cohesive — my favorites from the record are “How Far,” “Crawl,” and latest single “Justify.” The latter has an almost early ’90s Janet Jackson feel to it, with some less dated production behind it.

Even better is that all of the songs from Crawl Space translate extremely well live. Tei Shi performed much of the album during her opening set in support of MO at The Novo last week. I recommend checking out the record and seeing her next time she’s around your part of town.

Pre-order Tei Shi’s debut album Crawl Space here.

Photos courtesy of Kelsee Becker (Instagram / Facebook / Twitter)