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Margaret Glaspy Draws On 'Emotions And Math' For Her Debut Album


This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has a review of Margaret Glaspy's debut album, "Emotions And Math." Glaspy, who's 27, produced the album herself. She plays a variety of instruments, including the fiddle. But on the album, she concentrates on the guitar. Here's Ken.


MARGARET GLASPY: (Singing) Looks like - and you forgot - who I was to be, who you'd want. Yes, I've been sitting in silence because I thought you liked me quiet. But I don't want to watch my mouth. No, I don't want to act like I can't speak at all. I don't want to hold you till I'm good and ready to. Oh, I don't want to be on pins and needles around you -

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: I don't want to be on pins and needles, Margaret Glaspy sings on that song, which has a lyric about not wanting to alter her behavior to try and please someone she cares for. It's a song about how we sometimes, often without being conscious of it, readjust our essential nature to simply move a relationship along, to keep things going. It's a nicely complex idea to stuff into a catchy song with a strong guitar line. Turns out this is what Margaret Glaspy specializes in - complexity that unfurls with deceptive directness.


GLASPY: (Singing) Why don't we throw the beautiful fish in the sea? You keep on coming back to me. And I'm waiting on the day you wake up and say you don't want me.


GLASPY: (Singing) You don't need me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) You're on my mind every night of the week. Stop being so naive.

GLASPY: (Singing) Every woman and their mom is wondering where you're from. All in good time, you're going to change your mind because you don't want me.


GLASPY: (Singing) You don't need me.

TUCKER: That's "You Don't Want Me," in which Glaspy's forceful guitar strumming contradicts the neediness of the lyric. But that's only how it seems initially. As the song progresses, you realize Glaspy has thought through what it means to be desired and knows that it works both ways. A number of songs on "Emotions And Math" operate in this manner, including the title song.


GLASPY: (Singing) Oh, when I've got you by my side, everything's all right. It's just when you're gone I start to snooze the alarm because I stay up until 4 in the morning. Counting all the days till you're back, shivering in an ice cold bath of emotions and math. Oh, it's a shame. And I'm to blame 'cause we're all right until you go and I start losing control without wanting. Counting all the days -

TUCKER: One recurring strategy Glaspy employs is to launch a song as confessional singer-songwriter material before revealing it as tough-minded rock music. In a tune called "Situation," Glaspy sings about someone who's been condescending and controlling - or rather, attempting to do some controlling - and she's having none of that. There's an angry bite to the way she delivers the lyric that is echoed by the song's barbed guitar hook.


GLASPY: (Singing) Take your hands off of me. There's nothing wrong with me. I don't like sympathy. Don't you dare pity me because you don't know my situation. We've had at most one conversation. Don't call me out of the blue and tell me what to do.

TUCKER: As a guitarist, Glaspy favors echo and distortion while keeping the melody ringingly clear. This frees her vocals to explore a wide range of tones - guttural threats and irritation, higher-pitched yearning, chatty forthrightness, sarcastic disbelief at the idiocy or obtuseness of the person in front of her. Listening to one song after another, it starts to occur to you - this is someone I'd really like to have a conversation with or maybe avoid one. She's both impressive and intimidating.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed Margaret Glaspy's debut album, "Emotions And Math." Coming up, John Powers reviews a new documentary about the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.

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