by Nathan Springer (@Drownloading)
gobbinjr, the project of New York City’s Emma Witmer, dishes out the kind of maddeningly catchy pop music that will have you bobbing your head whether you’re smiling, sitting in bed or crying, sloshing through the rain. Witmer’s debut album, manalang, was the product of four years of writing and recording, the kind of thing that was maybe recorded without the explicit intention of being publicly released (thank goodness it was). The end result was an album that felt voyeuristic to listen to, as if you were watching the songs being written and recorded in real time.
Arriving a little over a year after the release of manalang, gobbinjr’s EP vom night (released as a combination mini-comic by Sophia Foster-Dimino) serves as a distillation and progression of the songwriting chops that Witmer honed in high school and through a stint at NYU. Opener “manatee” is a brief, infectious cut that sets the tone for the record: sunshine-y melodies paired with earnest lyrics about longing for love. “undies” slows things down a bit, hitting especially hard with the chorus, “u know that i'm a fool for u/ i'd throw in and be cruel for u/ it's screwed messed and fucked up/ undefined,” before rising out of the funk and turning into a sped up version of itself. The instrumentation on vom night lends itself to the light, loose vibe of the EP; drum machines putter away in the background, various twinkly synth lines compete for your attention, and jangly strummed guitars serve as the fragile backbone holding things together. Of course, the most important instrument here is Witmer’s voice, which is both vulnerable and powerful -- the album’s title track serves as a showcasing of this vocal and lyrical prowess. Album closer “firefly” ends things on a note that is half morose, half optimistic, building into a gorgeous crescendo before folding into silence and leaving you with a contented silence.
Sophia Foster-Dimino’s accompanying mini-comic serves as a wonderful visual complement to Witmer’s music. Foster-Dimino’s use of color is engrossing; somehow the whole thing seems simultaneously muted and vibrant. Scenes alternate between crowded dialogue and quiet moments of repose, emulating the emotional push and pull of everyday living. vom night’s nameless protagonist leads us through a narrative that, in its concreteness, serves as a channeling of the abstractions in Witmer’s lyrics. Like gobbinjr, this comic offers an earnest, yet never mundane, glimpse into the daily inner lives of the characters it creates.
vom night serves as an update of “twee” for the bedroom pop generation. Witmer’s songs prove that you can make music that is sweet without being saccharine, music that is both emotionally vulnerable and empowering. The vom night EP and comic succeed as individual works, but it is invigorating to see two artists working together to create a project that is greater than the sum of its halves.