Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math

Cutting a path that defies tired stereotypes about the role of female singer-songwriters, California small town girl gone national Margaret Glaspy crafts edgy, knowing songs that embody the millennial experience.

Though she got her musical start playing fiddle while in elementary school in Red Bluff, California – and went on, briefly, to a Berklee scholarship – there’s little that’s homespun, studied or even polite on Emotions and Math, Glaspy’s full-length debut released last year on ATO. Years of making her own demo recordings meant that by the time Glaspy reached a proper studio, she knew – and got – exactly the sound and textures she sought.

The occasional yelp in Glaspy’s vocal delivery threatens to lump her in with countless other singers of her generation, but the songs and arrangements on Emotions and Math rise far above disposable, flavor-of-the-month pop. Largely avoiding effects (even reverb) on her voice and instruments, Glaspy’s debut rivals such well-regarded albums as Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville and Polly Jean Harvey’s Dry.

Perhaps not coincidentally, like Harvey and Phair, Glaspy is an electric guitarist; building her songs upon that foundation imbues them with sharper hooks (and a built-in affinity for a rocking rhythm section when the songs call for one) than acoustic-focused artists tend to realize. That guitar – playing a corkscrew figure – is at the center of prickly tunes like “Situation” and gives Emotions and Math a solid center.

Glaspy’s a concise songwriter; not one of the album’s dozen tunes breaks the three-and-a-half-minute mark. And lyrically, she gets her point across in economical fashion. In “You and I” she sings in the first few seconds about not giving a fuck. And those lyrics are set against an instrumental backdrop that will get the attention of keen listeners.

Even when she dials it down, as on the plaintive “Somebody to Anybody,” Margaret Glaspy uses her trusty electric axe for accompaniment. Emotions and Math is a singer-songwriter collection with sharpened teeth.

Margaret Glaspy
Emotions and Math