Shen Teh was born and raised in Germany but moved to Lacrosse, Wisconsin. She is classically trained on the piano but plays a slew of instruments including guitar, ukulele, toy piano, harmonica and accordion. After she began writing material she formed a band, starting playing shows and recorded her first release entitled Alter Ego.
The music on Alter Ego is a whimsical adventure in fantasy that according to Teh “takes the listener on a journey from the sea to the forest and adventures in between.” There is no doubt the songs feel more reflective of something you would hear in a cabaret or a play. The vocals are dynamic to a point that she takes on completely different inflections that make her sound like she is taking on multiple characters.
I’ll say upfront that Alter Ego is certainly unique and on the same token isn’t what you would call ubiquitous in appeal. That being said there is nothing wrong with appealing to a niche and in the end may be the thing that could catapult an artist to relevance.
The opening track “My Pleasure” is a song that feels like it was ripped out from the first act from a play. I could practically picture a set and Teh singing to a packed audience. The music, which dances about with percussive elements and strings as she sings, “May I bring you towels, sheets and wash your underwear? May I rub your neck and comb your hair? May I throw away your junk and trash? Then wipe off your table and empty your ashtray?” She sings the tale of an overeducated, indignant person who is working a minimum wage job.
She sounds like an evil witch when the song takes a turn towards the darkness. She sings, “But when darkness falls, I say “Adieu” make my malicious thoughts come true Leave me alone, you snobbish pricks! It’s enough!” “Song About Nothing” feels a bit more like a traditional pop song while “The Forest Queen” could probably be sold to Disney about their next movie involving queens. I thought that “Snowflakes” was Teh’s best vocal performance. She sounds like she is just singing through most of it rather than exaggerating her voice to fit a character or mood. “The Ballad of Jeanne Baré” is a fast paced ditty that will remind you of a traveling circus and closer “Better Man” is in a similar vein.
I’ll admit I felt exhausted after listening to Alter Ego and I think it was because of how much enthusiasm Teh put into her performance. I highly doubt Alter Ego has many songs people will play on repeat but it has its time and place.
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