Learning to love in Eliza McLamb’s debut album ‘Going Through It’ (part 1)

By Saoirse Pira

In her debut album Going Through It, Eliza McLamb is drawing cards from a deck that feels all too familiar – she puts to words experiences I have not encountered myself, and yet the accompanying emotions have nonetheless marked my adolescence. The record assumes the form of a series of vignettes, each unique in style and emotion, bound together by the experience of growing up, finding your feet. McLamb, with her signature confessional self-reflection, holds up her hands to the listener; she traces the lines in her palms, tells us what she thinks they mean in such intricate detail that we walk away inspecting our own.

I was lucky enough to listen to the record before its release. It was a uniquely wonderful feeling, that anticipation. I stepped off the train, returning to Durham after the holidays, and saw my message to McLamb on Twitter had been answered – a bright blue link to the record company’s website. I stood on the platform, hovered over the link, sent a feverish thank you, and dragged my suitcase back to my college room. I sat outside my building on a ledge and swung my legs. I toyed with my headphones, stared at the blue link some more. I found the courage to open it and revelled for a bit in the anticipation, the fuzzy knowing – knowing this to be a record that will speak to parts of me that I have known and grown from, and parts of me that I will know and grow to be.

I thought too much and too hard, and I listened

The record opens with Before – a beautiful musing on youth before interruption – “the beauty of a time before knowing”. Birds chirp over hummed harmonies and there is no sound quite like the beginning of things. Even for an album that traces the process of growing up, there is a unique sort of omnipresence here. It is empathy, I think. McLamb’s presence on the track is both one of innocence, inhabiting the Before, and an aged knowing. She sings of a time before the knowing, but it feels present – alive. As we move through the album, it is clear that we are listening to a life, and its order might be chronological, but maybe it doesn’t have to be.

McLamb’s is a record of memories, making sense of the past with the knowledge of the future

Glitter is a beautiful homage to friendship; it is nostalgic and true to its core. There is a specific angst imbued in the track that is all too easy to locate – it is the unique place a friendship takes when met with a love you know to be inferior, when girlhood meets womanhood and nobody has ever felt anything so much. The gentle lamenting of Crybaby follows this thread – being so sensitive, letting the feeling envelope you. It opens with a memory of holding funerals for roadkill, going through life with so much sensitivity, unable to steal the soccer ball as a kid, even though you knew it was how the game was played. There is a pull towards psychedelics and nihilism, a call to dissociate, but McLamb reveals, “I am not a cynic / I always need something to love / And I find it if I feel like looking hard enough”, and it is beautiful, to love and feel so much.

The following track 16, with its hazy, dream-like opening that sounds at once so far away and so close, comes as a reaction to feeling so much. It is beautiful, but painful, and so much easier to swallow, feeling nothing at all

It is not delivered in poetic verse as with the tracks that came before it, but rather a string of unembellished moments, growing up by way of rejecting that characteristic sensitivity, finding the adults around her to be unavailable, and matching them as such. She knows it isn’t the ideal thing to do, but it must be the right one for now, until the rest isn’t so suffocating. She tells herself at the end, “I’ll come later with a hammer / And break open my burdens”, echoing the earlier Mythologize Me: “I thought maybe one day / I’ll use this in a good way / Isn’t it great what I’ve made of it”.

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