Emma Witmer, the Brooklyn artist who operates under the name gobbinjr, makes music that sounds like the sonic manifestation of a Rube Goldberg machine. As childlike and sweet as her songs are tonally, her two releases so far, 2016’s vom night EP and 2015’s manalang LP, are compositionally impeccable — much like the dynamic of one of Goldberg’s contraptions.
Whereas many artists approach slow-burners with linear, often predictable climaxes, Witmer zig-zags, loading each song with enough tuneful doodads to keep you marveling as the whole musical apparatus begins maneuvering like a near-sentient being. While songs like “perfect” and “may we all have space” from vom night begin with a destination in mind, the route they take to get there sets off a litany of bubbly, twinkly and whimsical little synths, digital effects and vocal harmonies that make it more about the journey than the end result.
She also writes some of the best hooks in the game.
“The most important thing to me is that it’s catchy,” she tells City Paper. “I want it to be stuck in people’s heads.”
So far she’s succeeded. Despite how downright weird much of her catalog is, songs like “don’tchya kno” and “firefly” contain melodies that could genuinely be transformed into radio-pop anthems. The emphasis is on “could,” though. That’s not a route Witmer is even vaguely interested in taking.
“I definitely want to keep it my way,” she says. “I’m not gonna let anyone produce it into some wack, Top-40 blown-out shit. I kind of have a rule with it: I have to produce the gobbinjr stuff. So I don’t think it’ll ever go that way.”
As far as tagging the style of music, an easy go-to would be bedroom pop, a name given to the swarm of homespun acts that began populating Bandcamp during the early 2010s.
“A lot of people think bedroom pop is something just super lo-fi and just someone futzing around with their guitar and singing,” she says. “I don’t really like when people call it lo-fi.”
“I’ve been calling it mean pop recently,” she adds. “It’s pretty accurate.”