On the cover of Eliza McLamb’s debut album, Going Through It (released January 19th of this year), the podcaster, essayist and musician is emerging from a body of water—eyes closed, blue rippling around her. In the opening track, “Before,” the watery motif continues through a vision of a “glittering lake under a splintering dock.” In a way, the album—an unflinching account of a turbulent girlhood—feels like the story of a swim through harrowing waters, a perilous journey recounted by a recovering hero.
Following a year where girlhood was often depicted as sparkling pink or cloying coquettish, McLamb’s more prickly image of a coming-of-age feels like a welcome reprieve. With its gentle vocals and hypnotic melodies, the album is sonically reminiscent of indie singer-songwriters, like Lizzy McAlpine and Gracie Abrams—though more upbeat tracks (“Anything You Want”, “Mythologize Me”) have drawn comparisons to early Taylor Swift through their catchy hooks and jangly choruses. A few darker songs allude to moodier influences, too. “16” features vocal distortion that brings to mind the likes of Billie Eilish, and the looped riff on “Just Like Mine” almost feels like it could appear on a Big Thief track.
McLamb’s songwriting, though, is what makes the album stand out amidst a sea of indie pop. Her perspective feels at once incredibly wizened and disarmingly vulnerable. On tracks like “Mythologize Me” and “Anything You Want”, she dissects the desire to perform a certain sort of femininity—be it a manic pixie dream girl persona or an easygoing facsimile of coolness. “Anything You Want” ends with her admitting “if I could get away from who I am/I’d be anything you want” as the background vocals quietly scream the song’s title.
On the trance-like “16” —which conjures the feeling of drowning—she subverts the expectation attached to a song titled after such a romanticized year, writing about her struggles with self-harm, her mother’s ailing mental health and her own self-medication with marijuana. On “Modern Woman”, she pokes fun at twenty-first century malaise, adding a dose of humor and self-deprecation to the record. “2pm is a wormhole into/buying clothes on Instagram/And standing in front of my fridge eating deli ham,” she writes, proving a range far beyond the melancholy.
The album ends on a definitively hopeful note. The penultimate track, “Strike”, is a love song about learning to let go of past experiences and embrace the vulnerability that comes with giving yourself to another person. “I’m giving you a knife to hold at my throat,” McLamb sings in her most tender voice, “I’d soften underneath your blow/But everytime I think you’ll strike, you don’t.”
“To Wake Up”, the album’s final track, is a fingerpicked ode to gratitude, to enjoying things as small as a trip to JoAnn Fabrics. “I have walked out from the dusk/and when the sun is rising/I’ll let it/I will,” she sings toward the end of the song. If Going Through It is a swim through the dangerous and unfamiliar, “To Wake Up” is McLamb rising up out of the water—taking her first breath of safe air, ready to emerge with stories to tell. And we’re so lucky to be able to listen.