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Tei Shi, Crawl Space

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Holly Gordon

Editor's note: strong language warning for the song "Lift Me."

“‘Cause baby you crawl/ then you walk/ then you run the show.”

The chorus on “Crawl,” the 12th track on Crawl Space, is urgent, as Tei Shi nearly shouts out “crawl” and “show.” The emphasis is hard to miss: born Valerie Teicher, the Buenos Aires-born, Brooklyn-based singer has slowly been releasing singles and EPs since 2013, but with this debut full-length, she is standing front and centre — and ready to run the show.

"Earlier in my career, I hid because I wanted first and foremost to be seen as a creative person making music,” she explained in a press release. “I thought that if I presented myself as a singer, people wouldn't get that I write, that I produce too. People have this idea that you can only check some of the proverbial boxes as a creative woman, that you can't be attractive and sexual and a great singer and a solid performer and a great writer and be in control of your creative space, as if some of those are mutually exclusive for a human woman. My ambition is to represent all of those without having to sacrifice one for the other.”

To describe Crawl Space as a concept album would be doing it a disservice — is it a concept to be yourself? — but it’s a stunning collection of work, starting with a 49-second clip of a younger Teicher, learning how to record on cassette (“So you have to talk there?”). There are two further diary entries like this — “I just hope that one day, I can be like Britney Spears” — letting us in on Teicher’s early self-awareness, then hitting us with jam after beautifully crafted jam (“Keep Running,” “Say You Do,” “Crawl”). Having lived with her family in Bogotà, Columbia — as well as Vancouver and Montreal — Teicher’s influences vary, and the Spanish song “Como Si” doesn’t feel like a side road for the otherwise English-language album, but an integral piece of the whole.

When Teicher was young, she decided to confront her fear of nighttime by hiding inside her family home’s crawlspace for a minute each night. Severe, but effective. While Crawl Space might be literal this way, it doesn’t trade in severity; instead, it’s a lesson in allowing yourself the time to face your fears, or break away if you need to — and find out what works for both you, and your art.

Crawl Space will be released March 31. Pre-order it here.