For an album titled “Crawl Space,” the music on the debut solo album by Tei Shi seems to suggest everything except for what the image of a crawl space conjures. If anything, “Crawl Space” represents a deliberate and extensive exploration.
The chill alternative pop album is the type that begs a follow-up effort in a few years. During those years of anticipation, a few more collaborations with the likes of artists like Glass Animals might happen to keep the name of a talented, up-and-coming musician in listeners’ heads, so they do not miss her impending rise to fame.
Valerie Teicher, known as Tei Shi, has been making music since the beginning of 2013, shortly after finishing her life as a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Throughout her childhood she lived and subsequently relocated to many different cities across the world, starting in Buenos Aires, then moving to Bogota, then Vancouver, then Montreal, and finally settling in the city of Boston to start off her adult life.
After releasing a string of successful singles and EPs in 2013 and 2014, she spent 2015 on the road, making appearances at music festivals like Electric Forest and Coachella, as well as serving as an opener for other alternative acts. Finally, in 2017, all of Tei Shi’s experiences have culminated into her debut album, and not just the experiences that she has had as a musician. The title “Crawl Space” functions as a reference to a childhood crawl space that she would go to out of fear of the dark.
Similar to how rap and hip-hop albums often feature extensive use of mid-song skits to get their points across, Tei Shi places recordings of herself as a child throughout the album. As the album’s mature music and lyrics are juxtaposed against the sounds of a young child’s stories and confessions, the album evokes both strong feelings of nostalgia and an appreciation for the process of growing up.
The best part about “Crawl Space” is that, although inexplicable, there is just something undeniably cool and alluring about great alternative music made by women. Beyond the musical acts that are 4 or 5-piece bands helmed by a central female singer with strong pipes, the truly unique music is written and performed exclusively by the women involved.
Few exist in the music industry today, but the best example of this structure is the band HAIM, made up of sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim. With a debut album that was released to critical acclaim and cross-genre contributions to Childish Gambino’s mixtape “ROYALTY” and Kid Cudi’s “Indicud,” the three sisters that comprise HAIM write, produce and perform their own music. This setup allows the themes and execution of the music to be inherently different, and in the case of HAIM, immensely enjoyable.
The same notion rings true for Tei Shi on “Crawl Space.” Interestingly enough, songs like “Baby” and “How Far” sound like they could have been bonus tracks on HAIM’s “Days are Gone.” However, Tei Shi makes creative strides of her own with the electronic cascades and tenderly sung verses of “Justify,” the Spanish track “Como Si” and the album’s flagship single “Keep Running.” The sounds that Tei Shi created range from the traditional alternative rock sound created with the innovative use of guitar, bass, drums, keys and synth to hip-hop influenced beats that sound like those of behind-the-board genius Pharrell Williams.
With a runtime of 47 minutes, “Crawl Space” provides just enough music for Tei Shi to make a complete and confident first step into the music industry. This length also allows listeners to feel that they have been part of a nice conversation with Tei Shi about the joys and realities of a unique and eventful childhood.
With “Crawl Space,” Tei Shi has earned her spot amongst the ranks of great female alternative pop artists. For the past few years, she has tested the waters to see if there is room for her music in the alternative and pop genres. With the undeniable appeal of honest themes and well-crafted music, “Crawl Space” inserts itself into the library of contemporary pop music as an unique debut album.