Rachel Garlin has lived an interesting and varied life, one that she has applied to the lyrics of her songs. The former Harvard basketball player and schoolteacher has made a name for herself as a singer-songwriter with a keen eye for observation about the world around her. Her latest album, Mondegreens, blends folk, country, rock, and a touch of blues, along with warm production and Garlin's evocative lyrics and voice, making for a compelling listen.
Produced by Julie Wolf, who has worked as a side musician alongside the likes of Ani DiFranco, Carly Simon, and the Indigo Girls, Mondegreens features 10 tracks -- nine originals and a stripped down, folksy cover of Don Henley's classic "Boys Of Summer." The album opens with "Capture Me," a pretty love song about the push and pull of long-term relationships that showcases some intricate guitar picking. Garlin's voice is warm and upfront, like she is singing in your living room.
In "Cheers To You," Garlin speaks of a too much, too soon situation with a child who has become an addict as an adult. Still, the song is hopeful, with the lyrics taking a somewhat humorous tone in places. The country-flavored track builds in intensity throughout, giving way to a lush, melodic chorus. "Earthquake Town" continues this country-esque tone, with a hint of tropical, as Garlin compares the instability of an ever-changing San Francisco to that of an earthquake. Garlin's lyrics, both here and throughout, really put the listener at the scene and are as strong as her sense of melody and song craft.
Garlin really spells out the anticipation and anxiety of waiting in "Radio Silence," a song that is oddly suited for the locked down environment the world currently finds itself in, while the title track repurposes the term "mondegreen," which usually means a misheard lyric, into accidental mistakes that turn out positive for the person making them. It is a clever, well-written observation about the quirks we face in life and how we overcome them.
On the intricate "Out There," Garlin channels her inner McCartney, crafting a song about the clichéd dangers females face when going out in the world. Garlin encourages them to fight back and push through to better things. the song first appeared in a virtual reality musical of the same name with vocals by Vanessa Williams. The album closes with "Higher Ground," a positive number featuring a full band and warm melodies.
Garlin's keen eye for observation, along with her strong songwriting skills and inviting voice, make for a winning combination. On Mondegreens, all three of these traits are in full effect, offering the listener a thought provoking, yet still hummable, collection of tunes.