Margaret Glaspy explains it all on Emotions and Math

Emotions and MathMargaret Glaspy has solved it. Or, at least, she’s simplified it. Emotions and Math, her beautiful bluesy debut, attempts to boil the problem of love down into two categories.

It’s an album which treats love as a mundanity as much as it is an obsession, hence the emotion and the math. The constant waxing and waning of relationships has given Glaspy a cocky, deadpan style, especially on the opener which gives its name to the album. “I’ve gotta get out of this tree, off of this limb, I’m a woman acting like a kid,” Glaspy sings, sounding as if she’s said it a 1000 times before.

This casually critical tone carries on throughout the album. Glaspy isn’t entirely introspective in her criticisms, her focus occasionally shifts away, but it never feels too far removed from herself. Take “Parental Guidance”, which provides a grim counterweight to the more freewheeling “Emotions and Math”. With the air of a well-meaning parent she instructs her child to “fall in love with the shit town you were born in, make friends with the kiddies you can’t relate to." The singer is both offering and receiving the advice, she’s parent and daughter, adult and child.

If this makes it sounds like a bitter, melancholic album, it’s not. Glaspy is sly, witty and for the most part, dead fun. “You and I” is the catchiest song on the album and tells the story of a breakup which was clearly harder on the other party. “I’m not looking for an open door to talk about love,” she sings unapologetically. It’s an admission of the various phases and contradictions within relationships, and a great two minute guide on how to break one off which isn’t working.

Glaspy tells all of this with an attractively clear eyed matter of fact-ness. Her voice feels like a close cousin to Joni Mitchell’s; she has the same ability to convey vulnerability and authority simultaneously.

The sound is also more authoritative. Drums have been added since her 2013 EP, bolstering the bluesy guitar licks against a rock beat. Aside from that, it still feels pretty stripped down. Alabama Shakes producer Shawn Everett was brought in to mix the album, and it shares the same crispness of quality as last year's Sound and Colour.

Forgivably, Glaspy often deviates from the binary promise of the album’s title. The songs meander quite wildly and when taken together seem inconsistent to the point of being messy. There are contradictions aplenty, but Glaspy definitely doesn’t seem to mind. “Call me a rebel, call me a renegade, whatever fits the mould you’ve made,” she sings on "Situation". Zero fucks are given.

As an outlook, emotions and math is a decent, if oversimplified, world view. As an album title, its slightly disingenuous of its contents. The album is far more complex and wide ranging than this binary would suggest, and is better for haphazardness. Despite its misleading title, Emotions and Math is a beautiful and promising record of studied love and harsh introspection.

Release: 17th June 2016, ATO Records


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