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gobbinjr - "Ocala Wick" | Album Review


by Hannah Liuzzo (@hannahliuzzo)

Emma Witmer, the sole mastermind behind Brooklyn-based whimsy pop band gobbinjr, is in control -- she writes, records, and produces her own music, runs the show, calls the shots. At first glance, gobbinjr’s Topshelf Records debut ocala wick (which translates to hm... nothing) reads like a collection of Nickelodeon-era silly bop theme songs for pals: it’s playful, inviting, charming, simple, and fun. But with a more sincere listen, the songs reveal themselves to be carriers of much more grave and weighty messages. So if Witmer is piloting every angle of the creative process, what’s going on in the gap between subject matter and delivery?

Though the majority of ocala wick recaps personal quirks, little bedroom scenes, and (unwanted) intimate grievances, ocala wick boasts a new level of political savvy for gobbinjr, the kind that makes you go, “YES, OMG, THANK YOU” when you realize you share a lot of Witmer’s feelings, and if you share them, they’re systemic, and if they’re systemic, you’re not alone. Being a non-man in a male-dominated industry means your existence is inherently political (yes, we get it, make a new point!) but what do you do when you’re sick of existing that way? What if you just want to bop to your jams without living out meme-able political clichés, without the threat of a weirdo creep dude inserting themselves into your nice time? Do you go one by one and explain it to every person with a certain look on their face? Getting this point across means you have to do some work and Witmer, who is “sick of music for aesthetic’s sake yawl,” is showing up.

ocala wick’s most charged tracks, "fake bitch" and "politely," take hard-to-swallow criticisms and sets them to earworm melodies you literally cannot shake. So if you’re sick of rephrasing and sugarcoating your callout message to your sexist coworker to make sure it lands, don’t. A simple, “Hey, heard this and thought of you” with a link to "fake bitch" is all you need. The same way Michelle Wolf can make a room full of all gendered humans unify in laughter poking at the #MeToo movement while still driving home its importance and cultural relevance, gobbinjr can make your sexist coworker sing along to an inappropriate violation while creating space for a, “Hm, I wonder if I’ve ever pressed my dick on someone that didn’t ask for it” reflection.

In addition to being useful, ocala wick is also flat out addicting. Simple rock band arrangements leave space for Witmer’s sky-high, direct, sometimes belting vocals and signature springy synth sounds to steal the show. The lyrics are thick with brutal honesty, sprinkled with charm, personality, and vulnerability. On "sorry Charlie," Witmer sings of profound loss (somehow in a singalong style), on "zitty mcgee" she sings about identifying as your physical flaws, "whydoistillcare" is a self-critique on thought looping, and "november 163" is about being firm on the position you’ve taken in a non-relationship, despite being pushed to act otherwise (“I’m not as hopeless as you might like”). It’s a collection of highs and lows that could only come from being a deeply feeling human, an endearing blend of deliberate poise and obvious raw coping mechanisms.

Sometimes making art is the only safe way to be vulnerable without people mistaking your strength as an invitation to cross lines, your brave openness as susceptibility. For anyone who feels like they need some assistance with telling someone to check themselves, for someone who might need a quick once over in the self-checkout lane themselves, for anyone who wants to feel brighter and less alone in a tiny moment ocala wick will do just the trick. But BE WARNED: these songs will stick with you and if you’re not careful, you’ll catch yourself singing, “I’m smoking at work! Hi, nice to meet you!” out loud and on loop at your nine-to-five. Have fun!