Tei Shi: Bad Premonition EP

Tei Shi’s first two albums wore their love for 1980s and ’90s pop and R&B on their sleeves. Moving from sugary, Britney-inflected pop to glistening ballads, the artist born Valerie Teicher synthesized her influences into charming, occasionally experimental pop delivered in a breathy,  luminous soprano. Since an acrimonious split from former label Downtown three years ago, Teicher has entered a phase of reinvention. On 2020’s independently released Die 4 Ur Luv EP, she leaned into energetic dance songs that occasionally spun their wheels. On Bad Premonition, she refines her approach. It’s a solid if relatively slight set that displays all-too-fleeting glimpses of her songwriting and vocal strengths.

The new EP’s six songs breeze by, outfitted with straightforward hooks built around Teicher’s fluttering vocals. “Grip” is the best, a sleek statement of self-worth that pulses with a satisfying charge. “Thought this shit was free and you got me cheap,” she sings. “But it gets ugly when you don’t play clean.” As on Die 4 Ur Luv, many lyrics touch on themes of asserting self-worth and could double as jabs at the music industry. During the downtempo “Mona Lisa,” one of Teicher’s loveliest songs to date, chiming keys and curlicuing synths accent a blunt message. “You’re so full of shit and you know it,” she sings in a sweetened falsetto. On the title track, she ratchets up the drama, describing an impending disaster she feels powerless to stop. She yearns to be “at the right place at the right time,” a frustratingly familiar refrain for independent artists that Teicher warps into her own surefooted pop song.

A few misfires stall the energy. Clanging synths and clicking, syncopated drums flatten “Familiar,” an otherwise atmospheric song about searching for an elusive sense of identity. “Bad Premonition” builds on similarly sparse elements—metronomic synth lines, a stomping beat—but becomes too repetitive by the time its delicate bridge finally strips away the clutter. The sameness undercuts Teicher’s strong lyrics and dexterous vocals. The fidgety, bilingual “¿Quién Te Manda?” features bassy, Y2K-style co-production from Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly, but it closes with an overlong outro that feels like subtraction by addition.

When Teicher deviates from her usual palette of metallic synth, Bad Premonition soars. The wistful standout “Color” casts breakbeat pop in a flood of sunlight. “Is it safe on the other side?” she asks on the song’s blissed-out chorus. “’Cause I feel like I died/In a ray of, in a ray of light.” Invoking Madonna’s late-’90s touchstone as much as the afterlife, Teicher blossoms the idea of being a small part of a bigger universe into a radiant song that perfectly suits her featherlight voice. Though her stylish, tasteful pop doesn’t always achieve the same highs, “Color” underlines Teicher’s delicately emotive power to induce a head rush of longing in an instant.