Emotions and Math is not simply the name of Margaret Glaspy’s new debut album. That expression drills right to the heart of the New York singer-songwriter’s 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 you’re going to spend time together. But Emotions and Math, which ATO Records released earlier in the summer of 2016, also sums up an epiphany she had while making the record. “In a lot of ways, it’s kind of how I operate,” says Glaspy. “I’ve always considered myself a free spirit, 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.” 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 people’s bands, Emotions and Math signals an assured new direction for Glaspy.
Glaspy, who’s 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 had a big year in 2016. She’s a fierce believer in the power of specifics to tell universal truths, to capture emotions we’ve all felt but don’t necessarily hear reflected in pop music. Some truths are uglier than others, but Glaspy never backs down. “It’s taken a minute,” she admits, “but I’m 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.”