Born and raised in California, Margaret Glaspy was involved with music from an early age, and finally cut her teeth around Boston – where she briefly attended the Berklee College of Music – and New York as a touring musician and by playing in other peoples’ bands. Glaspy has drawn upon this well of experience to deliver her self-produced record, Emotions and Math, stating that “[i]t feels like it took 26 years to make this album.” Ignoring the triviality and cliché of that sentiment, Emotions and Math, is a strikingly accomplished debut effort – especially considering that Glaspy isn’t a pop-starlet with big label backing – which is probably owing to the fact that the album cut is the final of 3 times that the material was recorded – the first two being demo/home recordings.
Self-producing a record is quite the gamble for any artist, but in Glaspy’s case it has worked, retaining a grittiness – reminiscent of Patti Smith and early PJ Harvey – in the punk/grunge meets indie-rock blend that forms the backbone of Glaspy’s sound that might have been polished over otherwise. Opening an album with the titular track seems a little uncouth, however Emotions and Math acts to introduce the listener to both Glaspy’s musical style and her exaggerated, auto-biographically tinged, lyrics. Amongst contemplating – in a cold, calculating manner – reuniting with a partner while separated by touring, Glaspy’s incongruent growl, sitting at odds with the image of her on the cover, demonstrates that emotion will exert a strong influence over what’s to come.
Judicious application of organ and rhythm imparts a slight soul vibe to No Matter Who, which seems odd on paper, but works as a satisfying, subtle, texture amongst Glaspy’s guitar tone. Lead single, You and I, opens with the interestingly confessional lyrics “tonight I’m too turned on to talk about us/and tomorrow I’ll be too turned off/and won’t give a fuck/about you and I”, which tie in with Emotions and Math desire for reunion, but tempered by the highs and lows of life on the road. Love Like This is an intriguing take on the ‘our love is extraordinary’ trope, backed by compelling music that draws the listener in.
Despite all the strong songs that surround it, Memory Street truly owns the album. Sitting in the middle of the record, Memory Street’s opening guitar carries a lot of emotion, grabbing the listener’s attention insistently and refusing to let go. The song’s solo is Neil Youngesque, without feeling derivative, all raw feeling and subtle nuance of tone, and Glaspy’s vocals coming out of the solo and into the outro are a kick in the guts. It is a powerful high that isn’t replicated elsewhere. Emotions and Math is delightful surprise – made all the more striking by being a debut – however it does set an incredible standard against which her future work will be judged. We just hope that Glaspy will continue to excel at what she is doing.