Album review: Margaret Glaspy ‘Emotions and Math’

As New York singer/songwriter Margaret Glaspy lands upon Australian shores this month her debut LP ‘Emotions and Math’ creeps a little deeper into the Australian ear. So far she’s lain her mark on Triple J’s ever-popular ‘Like A Version’ where she covered ‘Let me love you’ by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber, as well as her own guitar-driven ditty ‘You and I’. Appearing in Rolling Stones ‘Top ten artists you should know for 2016’, her latest LP has received accolade after well-deserved accolade.

‘Emotions and Math’ comes adorned with modest charm in the form of grungy guitars, scathingly personal lyrics, sung in a voice so unique in its idiosyncrasies that it manages to stand outside of convention with its organic and expressive timbre.

It’s an album whose charm is a composite of universal conditions placed within the perspective of personal experience, from a writer who has demoed her own work over and over again, and in a reductive fashion dismissed that which doesn’t serve the song. Glaspy –acting as her own producer – leaves no track too long, or indulgent with studio polishing.
Instead she presents a refinement of expression and of song-writing. Never faltering into melodrama, Glaspy at all times displays a mastery over her craft, over constructing colourful and evocative melodies that act sympathetically to the lyrical ideas that they serve. Glaspy’s guitar is an entity unto itself with its biting and rough tone, which despite its singularity achieves a fullness of tone that spreads itself richly across each song.

‘Somebody to Anybody’ is beautifully bitter-sweet with an air of subtle sadness pervading the songs performance. ‘No Matter Who’ is almost an upbeat Carole King hit reimagined on an electric guitar that’s been dragged through the dirt. Glaspy’s band throughout is tight, sitting back while Glaspy strums loosely whilst weaving simple guitar embellishments between vocal evocations. ‘Love Like This’ stands out with its driving percussion and heart-wrenching lyrics. Angst-ridden guitar segues into an angelic chorus sung in Glaspy’s fragile, yet well-controlled falsetto. Other highlights include lead singles ‘You and I’ and ‘Emotions and Math’.

It’s rare to find a moment on this album that doesn’t prove emotive. The avoidance of melodrama signals a return to the song-writing tropes of Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow and Patti Smith, where a body of stark poetics and well-considered song-writing reigns supreme.

“I’ve always considered myself a free spirit” says Glaspy, “someone who goes with the flow, but actually I’m not exactly like that. This record really taught me that I’m super analytical and process-driven. I think they really do go together, emotions and math. Nobody is just one thing”.