The Brooklyn-based artist Margaret Glaspy amplifies some of the most poignant parts of the singer-songwriter vibe on her emotionally enrapturing new album Devotion, which is available now via ATO Records. Every song packs a unique yet cohesive tone, as the singer melodically sways through ups and downs of the experience of a romantic relationship — although many of the sentiments, like the subtly piercing sounds of dealing with heartbreak on her aptly titled song “Heartbreak,” feel quite widely applicable in general.
Glaspy uses a rich dynamic palette, including softly meandering drum rhythms, wisps of contemplative electric guitar riffing that follow along with those wistful drum patterns, and closely intermingled, mostly warm synth tones. Her singing, which figures prominently throughout the record, feels restrained yet powerful, like Glaspy has captured some of the real, raw energy of real-life experiences. While bombast shines in some musical contexts, here, Glaspy seems to expertly dial into and amplify the palpable power of the “motions” of ordinary romantic relationship experiences and their many sometimes painful corollaries.
The especially jumpy, forward aspects of that energy shine at moments like the comparatively faster paced, sultry track “You’ve Got My Number,” but the dynamic richness extends on from there. There’s even a folksy feel (in the sense of the inescapable personal presence of that style) on the acoustic guitar-centered song “Stay With Me,” and that acoustic guitar pops up again later during the opening segments of “Vicious.” Meanwhile, “Without Him” features a restrained yet markedly groovy rhythm that aptly corresponds to the emotionally volatile relationship turmoil discussed in the lyrics, while on “Young Love,” which opens with segments of gently pulsing synths, Glaspy sings, “All I want to do is fall in love with you over and over again,” and the poignant directness of the music supports those lyrical sentiments quite richly.
The music and lyrics ultimately feel very poignantly unified under the banner of expressing the turmoil of trying to navigate the frequently entirely unplannable nature of love and romance. “What’s The Point,” which is the next to last song on the record, jumps up with startlingly punchy synths and heavy groove, and the song feels like a refreshingly real expression of, quite simply, frustration.
Yet, with Glaspy’s richly and even sometimes surprisingly dynamic Devotion, there’s never a sense of a morbidly final end to things; even through the pain, there are always the possibilities of the road ahead. On the synth-rich closing track, Glaspy memorably sings: “Whether you’re right or whether you’re wrong, the world keeps spinning.”