As the words from “Addict” reach your ears via Tei Shi’s gentle voice, you might fall into the trap of thinking this is another one of those love is an addiction songs. Yet the opening track of La Linda, the Colombian-Canadian singer’s new album out on Nov. 15, slowly reveals that this is not the case. She sounds optimistic and ready to face a new world of possibilities, as if she has shed her skin or found the essence of what makes her happy. And it seems like now, both of these are true.
La Linda comes two years after Tei Shi dropped her debut full-length Crawl Space in 2017, but the path to her sophomore release was tumultuous. In those two years, the artist — whose real name is Valerie Teicher — relocated from New York to Los Angeles in an attempt to free herself from the negativity that surrounded her life at the time, and refresh her perspectives in a sunny new city. It was in California where she began working on a new batch of songs, only to find her efforts roadblocked by her own label.
“It was super difficult to finish the album and find the support I needed to make it. I had to fight hard to get to the finish line,” Teicher tells Remezcla. “The first stage [of making an album] is always the easiest, most fun one, when you’re creating; but wrapping it up into a finished product ready for release requires a lot of support from a team that is supposed to be the label, but it doesn’t always work that way. That’s what happened with me.”
Her struggle to navigate the music industry, as well as her own battle with feeling discouraged and stuck in this situation, permeates the core of La Linda. As a whole, the album is a truly stunning collection of R&B-influenced pop gems. The tracks oscillate between clashing, yet inseparable emotions, like a constant balance between light and shadow. Her collaboration with Blood Orange, one of the many producers and songwriters she worked with this time around, exemplifies this common thread the best. “Even If It Hurts” is a grooving jam that shows that, even if it’s essentially linked to pain, falling in love is always worth it.
“The album talks about that moment when you leave [something behind] and enter something new,” she said. “You let go of the past, get rid of all that baggage, and accept the pain and all those [negative] things […] and then move on and appreciate the beautiful things.” On “A Kiss Goodbye,” Tei Shi does just that. Heavily influenced by bossa nova, she laments lost relationships on the track. But at the end of it all, she always has her self-love to rely on.
In her new L.A. home, Teicher found a diverse network of producers and songwriters who resonated with her personal vision. Besides Blood Orange, artists like Stint, Dave Sitek and Noah Breakfast, among others, helped her create the fantasy of La Linda. “I ended up being like the executive producer,” she explains. “I had to be very in control, guiding the process but also letting my collaborators do their thing. I had to keep my vision in mind and how all the songs were going to fit, because it’s hard to put out a cohesive project with so many pieces and people [involved].”
A welcome inclusion to La Linda was Teicher’s exploration of her Latin American roots. Born in Buenos Aires to Colombian parents and partly raised in Bogota, she’s sung in Spanish in the past, but this time she found the confidence to dive deeper into the music she grew up with. Apart from the Brazilian stylings of “A Kiss Goodbye,” she gives us “Matando” — a Caribbean-inspired track that could easily populate mainstream Latin radio airwaves. And on “No Jueges,” Teicher starts a stunning bolero where she harmonizes with herself, before picking up speed and turning it into a marimba-fueled party in the Colombian Pacific.
Even though her Latin American identity has always been something she wanted to show through her art, Tei Shi has found some resistance from the people around her to do so, even on this album. “People would always tell me, ‘It doesn’t make sense, people are not going to understand the lyrics; they’re not going to understand why you’re releasing music in Spanish’,” she said. But she has felt a shift in the musical panorama which has led her to feel comfortable writing and putting out music in Spanish. “[Writing in Spanish] helped me a lot creatively, because whenever I felt frustrated with writer’s block, another part of my brain would open up when I wrote in Spanish.”
La Linda contains other beautiful ballads, like the 60s inspired heartbreak anthem, “When He’s Done,” and the soulful album closer “We.” But it’s the upbeat single “Alone In The Universe” that feels particularly devastating. At the peak of her label-related frustrations, Teicher hit a studio in the middle of the desert in Texas and poured her soul into reconnecting with what matters most to her: making music.
“I was very sad because I felt like the last thing I was paying attention to was music,” Teicher reveals. “I felt like I had to regain that trust in myself as an artist and in my ideas. It was like a reminder, ‘Don’t forget about music and what’s most important, and don’t let other people’s opinions and external pressure confuse you.’”
With La Linda, Tei Shi offers us this new chapter: One where she allowed herself to feel it all, be it good or bad. Teicher underwent her inner, transformative journey and came out brand new, ready for a new day. Lucky for us, the result is a record of beautiful songs we can keep close to our hearts.