Margaret Glaspy was lucky that her childhood home in Red Bluff, California was awash with both music and various musical instruments. You might not guess it from listening to her excellent debut LP, but Glaspy actually started out as a competitive fiddle player (‘There’s a competition in the town I grew up in and they started a fiddle program in my elementary school’). Though she later switched to acoustic and then electric guitar, we can credit Glaspy’s fiddle playing days with teaching her certain techniques, such as passing chords, that have a residual influence on her current sound. This is perhaps one of the reasons Elliott Smith’s influence is audible on Emotions And Math: a great lover of chord changes, his songs had incredible movement as a result, and many songs on Emotions And Math have a similar kind of intrinsic momentum. Glaspy also cites Joni Mitchell’s classic LP ‘Blue’ as influential, and you can really hear this in her carefully crafted, witty yet often unsparingly introspective lyrics.
Her voice is one of the most distinctive elements of her sound: it has the elastic properties of the aforementioned Joni, but also shares with Joanna Newsom a texture that changes from slightly rough edged to delicate and sinuous when she pushes into her higher register. Coupled with the crunch and twang of her electric guitar, it’s a sound with the versatility to inflect her instantly memorable compositions with rock, country folk or even jazz overtones. Overall there’s a very ‘fat free’ quality to this collection of songs that suggests Glaspy takes her time honing down compositions, and it really pays off.