Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)
Christelle Bofale has a superpowered voice that flows like water. Her debut album, Swim Team, is lush and inviting, a carefully crafted project that evinces a clear artistic vision. Part indie rock and part soul, it’s a stellar introduction to Bofale’s singular sound.
The San Antonio-raised, Austin-based artist was raised in a musical household. The daughter of Congolese immigrants, Bofale grew up going to church, where her father played soukous guitar and served as the congregation’s musical director. Counting Joni Mitchell and Alex G. as influences, as well as Congolese and diasporic genres like rock, jazz, and soul, Bofale brings those musical multitudes to Swim Team. On Swim Team, Bofale’s voice sounds self-possessed, as she focuses on the overarching themes of love, disappointment, and mental health. Album opener “Moving On, Getting On” is filled with classic indie rock sweeping guitar riffs. “Love Lived Here, Once” is also heavy on the riffs, with steady drums and a booming melody that eventually crescendos. On “Origami Dreams,” Bofale’s strong, silvery voice shines over the soulful guitar harmony. In “U Ouchea,” the album’s penultimate song, a mini-epic that clocks in at just over seven minutes, Bofale sings, “I’m pregnant with fear,” over an airy, increasingly rising guitar refrain. On closer “Where to Go,” Bofale ends the album on a song that feels like a joyride through her most vulnerable moments as she sings, “I am lost out here.”
Bofale’s sound is radically vulnerable, and Swim Team is an invitation into her most intimate thoughts. If Swim Team’s five songs are an indication of what’s to come, Bofale is set to carve out space for herself as an unparalleled new voice.