Review: Eliza McLamb’s ‘Salt Circle’

Eliza McLamb thoughtfully explores life experiences and seeks to heal


Royal Mountain Records

“Salt Circle” album cover

by Rosalie Johnson, Reporter, Assistant Editor

Just over a year ago, I attended a small yet sold-out concert at The Vera Project in Seattle for an artist that I didn’t know much about. The venue’s character and wear – from art and posters to thousands of notes inscribed in the bathroom stalls – combined with only 300 fans in the audience resulted in a vibrant atmosphere that created a feeling of such intimacy and connection between the guests and the artists. That night, spent with friends that were family and loud music and city life, was how I was introduced to Eliza McLamb.

Eliza McLamb was the opening act, and in it, she told the guests that this was her first-ever live show. She shared not only her songs but her stories, her vulnerabilities, her joy, and her time; taking the opportunity to beautifully and softly yet strongly sing her most popular song at the time (whose title I probably cannot include) in addition to her songs “Debt” and “Irish Exit”. Her songs – both in lyrics and voice – were exquisite in talent and existence. I was ecstatic to be in attendance of her first show and mesmerized by her voice, grace, beauty, and presence. Long story short, I have been obsessed with Eliza McLamb since October of 2021, finding immense comfort in what she shares.

Rosalie Johnson and Eliza McLamb at The Vera Project in October of 2021. (Rosalie Johnson)

I think one can imagine my excitement when she announced her new album “Salt Circle” in November of this year and its release on December 2.

That excitement was not unfounded, nor was it disappointed, upon listening to “Salt Circle.” I found such joy and connection with McLamb and her music within this album, so much so that I reconsidered writing this because I don’t think I could manage damaging the experience of it – but I think that the self-analysis and expression of its joy is invaluable in appreciating its beauty.

“Salt Circle” tells six different stories, all interweaved and interconnected, all belonging to the same person and mind; ones of mental strife and contradiction, the bittersweetness of feeling a loss of childhood and finding joy and healing in adulthood, spirituality in friendships, and relationships between fundamentally different humans. Expressed through McLamb’s intelligent expression and insight and with a beautiful and smooth voice, her countless life experiences and ideals are shared with dexterity and poise.

“Salt Circle” checks all the boxes of the “three S’s” that I have found characteristic of McLamb: sophisticated, sad, and sentimental – and adds a new dimension: happiness. Though the happy songs remain laced with slight sorrow, they achieve the love that tells the story of finding healing and joy within oneself and friendships. There is a sense of astonishment and pride, somehow for McLamb and somehow for yourself as an enjoyer, in listening to these gentle and radiant beats.

In true McLamb fashion, “Salt Circle” left me in a state of reflection and understanding; rather than finding myself in an identity crisis, I found myself considering, contemplating, and comprehending not only what McLamb sang but how its truth and beauty was also connected to my own.

My enjoyment of McLamb’s gentle radiance (I know I’ve already described her music as this, but it is just so accurate) in her album differed between the songs, but not in a sense of better or worse; the various tones and experiences that the songs elucidated invoked different emotions, memories, or recollections. 

Eliza McLamb’s “Salt Circle” tracklist

The first songs she released, “Doing Fine” and “Pulp,” found themselves within the areas of sadness as well as sentimentality and anger. Though they are perfect “crying-in-my-car” songs and reflect on mental contention, they are so versatile that I find myself smiling as I listen; perhaps because they have such a great service to my own understanding, or maybe because I just simply find such joy in them. 

While “Doing Fine” and “Pulp” included a form of mediated despair, “Salt Circle” landed itself in a sentimental and wistful state of happiness. Describing and emphasizing the beauty and significance of friendships and spiritual adventures, “Salt Circle” is inspirational to the connective relationships many may seek.

Like “Salt Circle”, “Older” also achieved the sentimental and wistful state of happiness, though in a sorrowful manner; it is an ode and love letter to McLamb’s childhood and adolescence. Finding gratitude and pride for her younger self, McLamb simultaneously offers and accepts comfort in the knowledge that she is now better and still here, expressing to her younger self that this better life is also hers for the taking. McLamb continuously thanks her younger self for choosing life and resilience: “you’re the only reason I could ever get older.”

Unlike the other four, “Playhouse” explores a more sensual relationship and how it is affected by the fundamental differences between McLamb and her (assumedly) former romantic partner; McLamb examined their reactions to her actions and behavior and smartly established their differences through identifying a shirt given to her by her partner that was worth half of her apartment rent. This behavior and skill is all too familiar with McLamb: rather than explicitly identifying experiences or thoughts, she defines them through metaphorical ideas or literal incidences, simultaneously allowing an opportunity for a deeper understanding and connection with the listeners as well as chances of individual interpretation.

McLamb’s music, lyrics, and tone throughout “Salt Circle” are wildly perfect and unique and raw, inducing listener admiration and awe. Her undeniable and immense levels of skill as a writer is stunning and encouraging to continue to listen to her music; her smooth voice finalizes the perfection of the songs – not only are they intelligent and insightful, they are beautifully performed.

A combination of stories, a journey, an experience, and an environment, McLamb once again creates an opportunity to experience such self-reconciliation, beauty, and joy through “Salt Circle.”