Margaret Glaspy – ‘Emotions and Math’

Jul 14th, 2016
| posted by: Jonno |

I am not the first to have discovered Margaret Glaspy in these pages. Those honours go to Colin, who was raving about her over nearly two years ago and first brought the very talented artist to our attention. Back then, Glaspy was still cutting her teeth, covering a bunch of artists she loved and getting the world acquainted with her peculiar mix of roots, alt-folk, rock and jazz. Fast-forward a few years and Glaspy’s finally put out a debut record that’s as exciting as her inital EPs promised. It’s also kind of different, heavy on the guitar and eschewing a lot of the sounds that first endeared us to her, or at the very least, moving them around in a newly reconfigured setting. Much of Glaspy’s Emotions and Math seems to sit more squarely in a blues and grunge template, including radio breakout ‘You & I’. She alternately recalls a latter day Joss Stone, Tori Amos and Australia’s Grace Woodrofe, and none of these things are bad. With a tough, gravelly voice that really digs in to her lower range, she imbues her lyrics with a sense of gravity just because she’s the one singing them. And yet, it’s the song that fits least with the timbre of the record that has stuck with me the most.

D is back from America for a limited time, and we were driving home the other day when ‘Emotions and Math’ came on the stereo. I remarked how infatuated I was with this particular number, and he said ‘that’s probably because it sounds like Sheryl Crow.’ Now, many singer-songwriters might take that as a slight, but as has been mentioned here before, we Seidlers are very partial to Crow’s brand of pop-country. And while ‘Emotions and Math’ is no ‘All I Wanna Do’, it’s definitely got that same feeling of longing disguised beneath an amiable blues groove. It has parallels, sonically, to Norah Jones’ work with Danger Mouse, another record that was emotional rawness packaged in groove. The beauty in Glaspy’s music is in the tone; in the first verse, she manages to squeeze her embouchure into a shape so spindly that she ends up sounding exactly like the lead guitar line that lopes in after her. Glaspy is the band leader and the rhythm section at once; when she gets gruff, the elements rise up to meet her, but she can just easily sit in the pocket like a second guitarist adding flecks of texture.

Many of Glaspy’s lyrics focus around being a twenty-something still acting like a child, but to have reached this sort of musical output suggests (at the very least) a musical maturity that is well beyond her relative precocity. Though trained on quiet ones, she uses loud instruments sparingly, more focused on building emotion through repetition (her opening holler in the third verse, ‘I was a rolling stone’ is an amazing lightning bolt) than general histrionics. Most importantly, she’s graduated from simply being a unique voice to having one. And she’s guaranteed herself a spot on the Seidler road trip stereo for many years to come.

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