Emotions and Math is not simply the name of Margaret Glaspys new debut album. That expression drills right to the heart of the New York singer-songwriters proper introduction, a mission statement both artistic and personal.
On its surface, the title track talks about being a touring musician and figuring out how to see your partner, looking at the calendar and calculating how youre going to spend time together. But Emotions and Math, which ATO Records will release on June 17, also sums up an epiphany she had while making the record.
In a lot of ways, its kind of how I operate, says Glaspy. Ive always considered myself a free spirit, someone who goes with the flow, but actually Im not exactly like that. This record really taught me that Im super analytical and process-driven. I think they really do go together, emotions and math. Nobody is just one thing.
As introductions go, these 12 songs waste no time in cutting close to the bone. This is a young artist with something to say, one who has found her voice, as both singer and songwriter, after years venturing down a crooked path.
After cutting her teeth in New York and Boston, where she was a touring musician and played in other peoples bands, Emotions and Math signals an assured new direction for Glaspy.
Glaspy, whos 27 and grew up in Red Bluff, California, self-produced the album, which frames her revealing ruminations in shards of jagged guitar rock. Building on its early buzz Rolling Stone hailed first single You and I for its hot barbs of electric guitar, and BrooklynVegan declared it a stomping rocker with a DGAF attitude Glaspy prepares for a big year in 2016.
Shes a fierce believer in the power of specifics to tell universal truths, to capture emotions weve all felt but dont necessarily hear reflected in pop music. Some truths are uglier than others, but Glaspy never backs down.
Take You and I, which opens with a sentiment so gripping that Glaspy initially worried it would send the wrong message. Tonight Im too turned on to talk about us/ And tomorrow Ill be too turned off/ And wont give a fuck/ About you and I, she sings with a punk sneer that turns up often throughout her debut.
A lot of the songs are so specific but also feel like they apply to so much of my life, says Glaspy. I realize more and more on a daily basis that if youre given a microphone to share what you have to say, then I hope to God that I dont encourage some fantasy of what were supposed to be or how we should live our lives.
Glaspy would rather tell you the truth of the matter. On Memory Street, she envisions her past as a small town dotted with old relationships and memories both fond and painful: Why remember all the times I took forever to forget? She salutes her self-reliance on Somebody to Anybody, reminding both the listener and herself that, I dont want to be somebody to anybody/ No, Im good at no one.
The album also showcases Glaspys finely tuned ear for production. Throughout Emotions and Math, she keeps the recordings clean and urgent, without an ounce of fat on them. She had plenty of practice; having recorded demos of the album twice at home before eventually ironing out the wrinkles at Sear Sound studios in New York. Glaspy auditioned her players and kept the sessions brisk and loose, running through songs a few times with musicians still reading the charts she had written out. Everyone was on their toes, waiting for the right moment, she says.
That freewheeling vibe ended up imbuing the songs with the same brittle energy and warm intimacy Glaspy brings to her live performances. In a bit of comic relief, You Dont Want Me is a duet with herself, an imagined conversation between an insecure woman and a man who has to reassure her. You dont want me, Glaspy sings dismissively, countered by her own voice, slightly distorted and pitched lower: I do/ You are on my mind/ Every night of the week/ Stop being so nave, Glaspy sings.
Told from the perspective of a parent to a child, Parental Guidance plumbs the fragile psyche of adolescents. I think a lot of times kids are pigeonholed as being kids, but at the same time its the most important years of their lives, Glaspy says. Our view of ourselves is so paramount, and when it gets messed with at a young age, its lethal.
The closing Black Is Blue is a poetic ode to accepting a reality you never knew. The least autobiographical song on the record, its the story of a couple who were in love, had a kid, and then broke up. But from far away, 'Black Is Blue is about things you thought were one way but arent really like that at all, Glaspy says.
Its taken a minute, she admits, but Im so glad that I waited to record my debut. I went through so many different phases before I got to where I am now. It feels like it took 26 years to make this album."