Picture Eliza McLamb’s debut full-length, Going Through It, as a plunge pool with a still surface that betrays its staggering depth. A dive beneath reveals excerpts from McLamb’s life, one that until recently could be described as “difficult” if not plainly “traumatic.” By the time you hit bottom, you’ve reached the midpoint of Going Through It, a song called “16” that bluntly recalls a year of familial and personal turmoil that made McLamb the songwriter she is today. “I’ve no idea why I didn’t kill myself, frankly,” she says. McLamb survived, but the trauma lingers. “Side A of the record is ‘show me everything,’” she says. “Side B asks: ‘How do I take this with me?’”
McLamb’s star rose during the pandemic, when she released a cheeky, catchy song called “Porn Star Tits” that became an instant success on singer-songwriter TikTok. She’s since removed the song from streaming sites because it felt like a false-start. “The song is clever, but it tells you everything you need to know, you don’t need to think further once it’s done,” she reflects. “It lacks depth and nuance.” She eclipsed “Porn Star Tits” on her debut EP, Memos, and on her 2022 EP, Salt Circle, a collection that demonstrated the breadth of McLamb’s talent and ambition. On top of pursuing a career in music, she’s the co-host of the enormously popular podcast Binchtopia and devotes time to a Substack where she publishes personal and investigative essays. While both of those avenues offer insight into McLamb’s mind, it’s the music that helps her work through the past. “I sit down to write when I’m feeling a certain way and I don’t know why,” she says. “It’s a process of translating an emotional reality into a musical one, something that can be easily shared.”
While the writing process is both intensely personal and therapeutic, McLamb’s songs speak to a wider audience beyond the self. Take the aforementioned “16,” a song in which McLamb recounts a devastating year; her mom was in and out of psychiatric treatment, her dad couldn’t handle parenting in crisis, and McLamb was forced to grow up quickly, at an enormous cost. She fought a restrictive eating disorder, intense depression, and a diminishing will to do much of anything beyond smoking weed in the parking lot of the mall where she worked at a perfumery. The intense specificity of McLamb’s lyrics become universal, though, towards the song’s rousing ending, when her voice is doubled, giving listeners a sense that she’s singing both for and with any girl who’s ever had the misfortune of being a teenager. “Being a teen girl is terrorism, no matter your circumstances,” she says.
McLamb enlisted close confidant and collaborator Sarah Tudzin (Illuminati Hotties) to make the record at Bear Creek Studio in rural Washington, where Big Thief recorded U.F.O.F., an album McLamb holds dear. She’s keen to reference her influences, and pays respect to them across Going Through It. Opener “Before” summons the soft spoken, confessional ethos of Sufjan Stevens’ seminal Carrie & Lowell, the story of which mirrors, to an extent, McLamb’s own. “That really deep dive into his childhood and the relationship to family was a major inspiration on this record. You don’t often hear those kinds of songs,” she says. But the folksy wistfulness of “Before” doesn’t linger long; it’s followed by “Glitter,” a pop song whose chorus promises retribution. “I wanna kill your boyfriend,” McLamb sings over a crushing guitar to a dear old friend with whom she shared a close bond growing up. She’s spent a lot of time yearning for the irreplicable intimacy of teen girl friendships, crediting them for buoying her in her toughest moments.
Going Through It’s B-side is decidedly more optimistic, opening with “Just Like Mine,” a timid love song whose choral cadence resembles Elliot Smith. “To look at all we lost/ Just buried in the shrine/ Well, honey/ Your grief looks just like mine,” McLamb sings to her mom, who she’s repaired her relationship with. The penultimate track, “Strike,” navigates the anxious beginnings of a relationship, one that has the power to ruin your life if it goes wrong. McLamb’s gentle delivery muscles up as the song progresses, mirroring the strength derived from surrendering oneself to new love. It’s a far cry from the album’s incendiary lead single, “Mythologize Me,” in which McLamb sings to a high school guy enamored with all of her most fucked up qualities. The massive pop chorus could’ve been written by Taylor Swift in her Red era, if it’s possible to imagine the idol describing her teenage self as “a boring anorexic.” Indeed, McLamb’s clear-eyed sense of humor and wit makes Going Through It unforgettable. Look no further than “Anything You Want,” where she describes herself in the most negative terms imaginable while propositioning someone. “I’m an outlet mall parking lot/ I’m an Everclear on the rocks/ I’m not anything you want,” she declares at the end, echoed by a scream. It’s the “If It Makes You Happy” of the 2020s, a song one can easily imagine leading a rendition of at karaoke.
It’s tempting to prescribe the word “triumphant” to Going Through It, knowing all that McLamb has endured, but triumphing over the past isn’t the point; learning from it and moving forward in spite of it is. When McLamb entered young adulthood, she fell into consistent distressing thought patterns, imprisoned, in a sense, by the anxiety that plagued her childhood. “I’ve become a kind of Jehovah’s Witness for a type of psychotherapy called ‘Internal Family Systems,’” she says. “The Cliffs Notes version is that there’s a system within you, a bunch of moving parts, and at the center is the self. All of those parts influence the center, and they overlap one another at times. When I’m brash on a song like ‘Mythologize Me,’ I’m masking another part that’s hurt, abandoned, in pain.” It’s a theory McLamb is obsessed with, not because it explains away her suffering, but because it allows simultaneous versions of the self to coexist in relationship to one another. On Going Through It, listeners get to know all angles of this mercurial and singular songwriter.
Publicity Contact: Grace Jones