Album Review: Rosa Bordallo – Reef Walker

Indie folk-pop musician Rosa Bordallo will release her first record under her own name on Friday, October 18 on Time Castle RecordingsReef Walker was written entirely by Bordallo and explores themes of identity and community while moving through ten grungy, folky tracks that become progressively more eerie and gritty as the album progresses.

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Collage and cover design by Rosa Bordallo. Photographs by Alethea Bordallo and Varvara Mikushkina.

It’s not difficult to determine that Bordallo is musically experienced; there’s a maturity to her music as she carefully balances acoustic guitar with fuzzy electric bass (“Sleight of Hand”) and develops off-kilter, eerie tracks with an occasional faraway screech (“Dust Bowl”). And though Reef Walker is an interrogation of identity and community – Bordallo is CHamoru and grew up in Guam, moving to New York at age 19 – its music is not overwhelming.

The album’s first single and third track represents the rest of the record well. “Lost on the Coast” is gritty, grungy and folky with the perfect amount of dissonance, yet a catchy guitar lick interjects and repeats throughout the song. It’s a light track, and Bordallo’s voice is shockingly smooth as she croons, “I long to see the day/When you are proud of me.”

“It’s about points of no return,” said Bordallo about the track. “We reach these important milestones in our lives only to realize we left something irreplaceable or irretrievable behind.”

And despite the record’s overall folkiness, Reef Walker reflects this loss well with its steady progression into eeriness. Each track feels more dissonant and haunting, and grungy layers in tracks like “M.O.S.S.” and “Hoarders of New York” up the intensity as time moves on while songs such as “Citadel” and “Trust Territory” feel warping and weird.

All of this culminates in “See You in the Afterlife (No Longer Set Apart by Language),” a spacey track that boosts the spookiness exponentially with flatly spoken vocals, sharply echoing gasps and unearthly droning synth in the background. It’s a strange track, but it communicates the dissonance felt when a person loses their sense of community and belonging, and it leaves listeners contemplating that emptiness after the track is over.

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Photo by Varvara Mikushkina.

Reef Walker is perfectly haunting; its musicality is unique and memorable, and its lyrical content resonates, yet the album is still accessible. It’s an entrancing record, and it will echo in listeners’ heads long after the final track has ended; find Reef Walker on all musical platforms on Friday, October 18, and listen to the first few singles and pre-order Reef Walker via Rosa Bordallo’s Bandcamp page below.

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