Review: Margaret Glaspy-‘Emotions and Math’

Sometimes, a singer-songwriter comes along who just shakes shit up a bit. We have some incredible musicians around just now who are reinventing what singer-songwriters can do: Palehound; Perfume Genius, Frankie Cosmos, St Vincent, Kiran Leonard and of course the all-conquering Ezra Furman. All make music that inspires, that exists in its own niche, entirely apart from trends and bandwagon-jumpers.

Margaret Glaspy is one such musician. Originally from California, but now based in New York, this twenty seven year old sounds incredibly assured. Her songs spread like a virus that you don’t mind having, and spreading to others.With riffs that are ferocious or tender, debut album Emotions and Math is a fully-formed wonder- powerful, beautiful and as bruised as a knuckle scraping along a wall.

Margaret Glaspy

Her voice cracks, swoops, wavers or yelps sometimes- it’s a fascinating instrument on its own terms. But her guitar playing is pretty bruising,too, even on the go-ahead country pop of You and I.Pins and Needles and Love Like This sound furious- on the former, she snarls, “I don’t wanna hold you ’til I’m good and ready to”, defiant and yet a little vulnerable. The latter’s clattering percussion gives way to monster riffs, as she sighs in a higher register like a lost child, or growls- almost on the verge of madness.

Sometimes, it feels uncomfortably voyeuristic, listening to these rough-hewn grungy country songs.Parental Guidance finds her spitting out contempt for her small-town background, where she’s always the outsider, trying to blend in, so as to not have to deal with cliques. But in Black Is Blue her voice drops, as she confesses,”I talk to myself”… and she’s equally worried about inter-female relationships; that she might be faking this adult thing: “My mother still talks down to me/my little girl sees right through me”.


Photos by Ebru Yildiz

Such self-effacing lyrics emulate the other bard of the thin-skinned-Morrissey, especialy emulating moods like I Know it’s Over or the mocking Unloveable. It’s as though she is saying, I am a fuck-up, but so are you. We’ll get through this together, and wear our flaws with pride.

Maths are all about logic, but people’s emotions are not- every bit as complicated, though.This album is lyrically and musically dense, and so absolutely brilliant, you may wonder how you managed without her for so long.


(Lorna Irvine)


Out on June 17th on ATO Records.


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