Listening to Eliza McLamb lilt her vivid, carefully-placed lyrics rife with empathy, emotion, and sensitivity, you get the sense that this is an artist who takes her time. Her earliest releases were recorded in a laundry shed, with little else but her voice and a guitar. Now, with the help of producer Sarah Tudzin (aka illuminati hotties), her sound has opened up into gut-wrenching riffs and lush, full soundscapes — but that original intimacy remains, unwavering and unshakeable even as the sonic world around her expands.
While her audience connects deeply with the experiences and emotions put forward in her work, McLamb isn’t performing for the observer: her creative process is a personal practice that borders on spiritual. She’s been writing songs since she was six, and never really expected anyone to listen except herself. Even as her work spread to millions of viewers online, she never divested from her belief in art as a personal — almost therapeutic — act. The fact that her intimate anxieties and experiences can resonate so deeply with so many strangers only confirms the philosophy that runs through her oeuvre: that strong emotions are what connect us all to each other, and that we’re all a lot more connected than we may think.
McLamb doesn’t write her music to be gospel — to her audience, it’s something more like a mirror. When you connect with what she writes, you’re really using her writing as an intermediary to connect with yourself. Her work encourages you to self-reflect, accept sensitivity, embrace connection, and perhaps most of all, feel as deeply as you possibly can.
For better or for worse, life keeps moving forward. It’s this fundamental truth that Lexi Vega, the creative force behind Mini Trees, confronts throughout her debut album Always In Motion. But coming to terms with this inevitability has been a life-long struggle.
The daughter of a Cuban-born father and Japanese-American mother, the uniqueness of her identity has been an ever-present tension in Lexi’s life. She never quite fit in growing up within predominantly white communities in suburban southern California, with few who around her outside of her family to understand the generational scars caused by both exile and internment. When she was only 5 years old, Vega’s father, a professional drummer himself, took his own life. These traumas set in motion an ongoing questioning of Vega’s own self identity — and Mini Trees has provided the palette for Vega to process, to persevere, and to grow.
After playing drums in various projects for years, Vega began writing and recording her own music under the moniker Mini Trees in 2018. She recorded her first solo track in the Summer of 2018 with producer Jon Joseph and was immediately hooked on the feeling of creating something that spoke directly to her as an artist, fully in control of her own vision. Mini Trees debut EP, Steady Me, dropped in 2019 and Vega followed it with 2020’s EP, Slip Away.
Following the release of these two EPs and with ample time to work on music during 2020, Vega both found herself ready to progress creatively and challenging many of her long-held beliefs and notions about her own identity. Originally envisioned to be yet another EP, Vega instead began working on what would become her debut full length, Always In Motion, a collection of relatable indie-pop songs that acknowledge our collective anxiety about life’s improbability.
“Moments In Between,” Always In Motion’s ethereal opening number, was written early on in the process, kick-starting Vega into songwriting mode and reflecting the anxiety and dread she was grappling with as the world shut down around her. That sense of uncertainty pervades the album, although it’s more universal than circumstantial as Vega uses the lyrics to consider how we move through life with a constant sense of unknowing. “Moments In Between” wonders whether spiritual belief can help us accept all types of challenges, although the introspective track doesn’t necessarily find a conclusion.
“When you’re in the midst of something painful you long to get to the other side of it,” Vega explains. “You want to be free from that. Faith can mean that even though life is long and painful, there is hope at the end of it all. I like the idea of there being something better than this on the other side. That possibility acknowledges that while people go through periods of intense anxiety and dread, they make it through.”
“Carrying On,” a pulsating, layered track, was written during a trip to the desert, where Vega struggled to reconcile her sense of the world with actual reality, especially during a time when everything felt so unbelievable and surreal. The lush “Cracks in the Pavement” reflects on identity, with Vega acknowledging and embracing who she is and recognizing that change has to come from within.
Those themes extend into “Spring” as Lexi explores long-term relationships, wondering whether they can withstand one partner’s internal evolution. “It explores that fear of when you care about something so much that you don’t want to lose it,” she notes.
The closing track, “Otherwise,” confirms that there is no easy answer for these queries, but maybe that’s okay. Life, as usual, moves forward.
“I liked the idea of ending on an unresolved note,” Lexi says. “It emphasizes that there’s no certainty until we reach the end. That’s the only truth that seems reliable. You can’t ever know what’s going to happen until you get there. And that doesn’t have to conjure up feelings of dread. Over the course of the album I teeter-totter between having questions and wanting answers, but the resolution is to be okay with not knowing. I think I do find some acceptance along the way, but the album purposefully concludes with no real resolution.”