A laché is an athletic feat of movement — a leap of belief that involves holding onto something and swinging in repetitive motion, gathering momentum, and releasing into mid-air before landing or moving to another object.
Singer-songwriter Rachel Garlin, who has criss-crossed the country with her distinctive style of folk-rock has been called “a troubadour in motion.” A lifelong athlete who played basketball at Harvard, she learned both the term and the skill of laché-ing while training over the past few months to compete as a rookie in the upcoming season of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
Garlin’s music career follows a similar trajectory. Her new EP, The State That We Are In, comes as a quick laché-leap from her 2020 LP, Mondegreens. These recordings, plus her community involvement as a front-porch musician during the quarantine, earned her praise from the San Francisco Chronicle, her hometown paper.
The State That We Are In (produced by Jonny Flaugher) features four originals, plus a cover of “Layla,” a solo rendition that flips the script on Clapton’s recording and exists as a musical nod to Garlin’s wife, Laela Sturdy. Rooted in a sense of immediacy and marked by Garlin’s imagery-rich songwriting style, the album is filled with tasty finger-picking, a wake-up-call rhythm section, and a refreshing breeze-through-the-window draft of woodwinds and brass. Producer Flaugher’s multi-dimensional arrangements strike up chemistry with Garlin’s literary lyrics and conviction-filled vocals, allowing for a provocative walk through songs both personal and political.
In both music and these Ninja Warrior games, it takes practice, strength, and a certain amount of courage to let go of something, reaching for the next bar to hold or space to occupy. With The State That We Are In, Garlin tried to release her preconceived notions of what an album should sound like and instead focused on the process--the creative work and collaboration, as well as the feelings and instincts that go into making music. She wrote music every day of February, allowing herself to be a vessel for expression — inspired by the famous quote by modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham who reminds us to “keep the channel open.”
As a result, the songs on The State That We Are In tell a range of stories all sprung from a well of authentic impulses to create. The ballad “Some Weights Are Heart to Bear” has a deep and haunting air, whereas the up-tempo track “The State That We Are In” serves as biting commentary on current American politics including gerrymandering and climate change (topics Garlin is well-versed in addressing, as a certified educator, community activist, and songwriting mentor at San Francisco’s Sunset Youth Services).
Garlin swings into the summer with her American Ninja Warrior premiere on June 7 and her album release on June 25. Her first tour since COVID includes shows in Boston, New York, Philly, and Asbury Park, NJ. On stage, Garlin combines a warm stage presence with songs and stories related to her work as an artist, athlete and activist in her own community and beyond. Just like with the laché, it’s all about building momentum and knowing when to let go and fly.