Sami Martasian is a freelance illustrator and teacher in Boston, MA. They are the front person of Puppy Problems, whose album Sunday Feeling is out on Sleeper Records, and are one-half of Rose, Water, Fountain, which just self-released an album this past summer. They can be reached at Samanthamartasian@gmail.com.
There are probably a hundred people in your life that you’ll want to send a track from the new gobbinjr album to—
The dude at the show who frequently crosses the very important line between supportive and blatantly creepy.
The coworker you wonder if you’re really friends with.
The ex you still love.
The ex you never did.
The best friend you want to explain everything to but don’t know how.
The asshole on the internet gazing past something you created who’s looking you up and down when you didn’t ask him to.
Emma Witmer, in some kind of supernatural move, has heard the unspoken words you’ve wanted to shout or whisper to each of them and wrangled them into an album that is as deeply personal as it is relatable. That balance is indicative of this collection of songs as a whole. Moments that are heavy or somber connect to kazoos and bouncy synth tones. Intimate, quiet movements give way to beautiful, full instrumental arrangements. Ocala wick effortlessly strings together dance-y bits with sincere lyrics so no moment is too unbearably heartbreaking.
“fake bitch,” which was released as a single, is a perfect example of the album’s over all harmony. A track with a bold opening lyrics (“you pressed your dick against my thigh when we hugged/i didn’t ask for it/you’re not the one i want”) focuses on inappropriate behavior that is unfortunately common. However, where other artists would bust out a painful minor key, Witmer laces together kazoos and pop sensibility into a powerful retort. Without diminishing the seriousness of predatory behavior, her response is taking power back with the magic of brave humor.
The theme of being watched and nonconsensually sexualized is revisited a few times as the album progresses. Witmer explores a delicate underbelly of these experiences. She illuminates the way these encounters alter the way many of us interact with the greater world. In “afraid of me,” Witmer quips, “he’s staring at me so i pretend that i don’t know/if i act like i’m not there, maybe he’ll leave me alone” In “politely,” she declares:
the only gaze of a man that i’d like to meet is the gaze of a man that has respect for me
and i don’t want to be part of your fantasy
keep your eyes to yourself if you can’t act politely
Emma Witmer’s voice is bright and fresh. It is constantly tender, but tender voices are often the strongest of all and her message is clear: If you can’t treat people decently, you can fuck off.
When I listen to ocala wick, I smile to myself imagining people in various bedrooms, in every city and suburb, falling in love with this record the way I have. All of us, healing from whatever trauma has crept into our lives because of the way we are perceived by an unkind and uncaring world that frequently favors male aggressors over the non-male people they torment daily, dancing in our bedrooms alone. Jumping on our beds. Singing along. Feeling safe to laugh and cry together, connected to everyone who is listening at the same time and feeling briefly free from that pain of objectification because, for the duration of ocala wick, we feel understood and empowered.
“joaquin” follows the first few instrumentally full tracks with a reminder of the intimacy that flows at the core of ocala wick. The song opens with what sounds like an iphone voice memo, some kind of on the go recording of just Witmer singing softly (“hurricane leave me alone…”). Distant sirens and street noise gently coo along.The song buds into bright acoustic guitar and clearer quality. About a minute passes like this until the gentle rush of a backing track flowers into a steady chorus. Witmer repeats “nothing ever happens to me” as keys wind up and down into a lullaby with a heavy sense of motion. It all ends with one last poignant thought: “i loved you truly/you never really knew me”.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention another heavy hitting track, one of my favorites, “sorry charlie.” I’m pretty against anyone thinking that they can guess what a song is about but it feels fair to say there’s a sense of loss behind lyrics like “last night I cried until my eyes went dry, why’d you have to die?” I adore this song. I adore its brave and no-frills lyrics. I adore the humming organ and the choir-like backing vocals. I love every melodic twist and turn. It’s the kind of “Hang on, there’s a reason to be alive even when everything massively sucks,” song that so many bands have attempted to write but seems impossible to make without falling into a floor trap of condescending language coupled with tasteless metaphors. But where every other artist has failed, Witmer absolutely nails it. She explores her own grief while offering a beautiful message. The words are simple but their implications are complex:
though it hurts to stick around longer
it’s the scary things that make us stronger
those who acknowledge the world is wrong
might find solace in a song
good people feel shitty
There’s not a song on ocala wick that should be skipped. I have infinite respect for Emma who has written, performed and produced every song (although bap also features the extremely talented Heeyoon from Boosegumps, free cake for every creature, and susie derkins). Listen to this record. Fall in love with it. Share it with the people you love and maybe even to the ones you don’t.