Saturday, November 16, 2019

Review: La Linda • Tei Shi



Tei Shi's professional music career started as a dream. Born Valerie Teicher, she once recorded herself as a child in her bedroom, lamenting about her self-image and closing her monologue with, "I just hope one day, I can be like Britney Spears." The recording later would be rediscovered and embedded into Crawl Space, a debut record that affixed tight melodies to experimental genre-fluid tracks. How's that for a self-fulfilling Spearsian prophecy?

Now years deep into her career, Tei Shi – like Britney Spears, and more recently, Taylor Swift – has seen all sides to the lifestyle, including those not included in the idealist childhood fantasies of intense choreography and punchy choruses. "Put me on a pedestal and tell me where to sign," she ironically declares on "Alone in the Universe," an lonely outpouring by way of an immersive pop song – one that was written as she became a Los Angeles transplant and her second record, La Linda, was caught in the gears of the industry machine.

Despite longstanding label tension that nearly led Tei to scrap the project, La Linda refuses to become a frustrated record – "I tell my heart every time, 'It's an art. Take your time,'" she concludes on "Alone in the Universe." Rather, she juggles rawness and romanticism over a smooth fusion of Latin pop and rhythm and blues. Lighter, more flexible, and a bit less focused than its predecessor, La Linda is hook-laden and instantly gratifying. The Spanish break-up note "Matando" is set to infectious reggaeton; lead single "A Kiss Goodbye" chugs along to what can only be described as a Brazilian lounge beat; and the vintage rhythm and blues styling of "Red Light" should be oozing from every car stereo on the street.

More importantly, however, Tei Shi seems more confident in her abilities and more comfortable in the professional musician lifestyle, which surely can be given credit in part for this record's roomy production and upfront lyricism. On standout cut "Even If It Hurts," for example, Tei and Dev Hynes put their effortless chemistry on display as their melodies spill over twinkling keys and sensual bass work. Likewise, the easygoing instrumentation on "Thief" is somewhat muted, allowing her runs to mesmerize on their own. And given the circumstances, it is most important to hear Tei Shi command her own work. If this record is any barometer, she certainly seems to have course-corrected her childhood dream from veering into a nightmare.

La Linda is available now under Downtown Records.

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