Genre-hopping multi-instrumentalist General Joie reflects on a failed relationship in his well-produced, if somewhat lackluster, EP Wait For Me.
Given the many musicians of varying backgrounds that flock to Boston’s music schools, it follows that the city’s musical culture should be just as eclectic as the students it attracts. Somerville-based multi-instrumentalist General Joie, real name Gabriel Rothman, makes music that is quite literally right at home in this kind of diverse scene. On his latest EP, Wait For Me, Rothman employs a variety of instruments, guest vocalists, and song structures to grapple with the painful reality of post-breakup depression, with varying degrees of musical success.
Over the course of this five-song EP, General Joie tries to cover as much material as possible, both musically and thematically. From the sunny, funky optimism of “Wait For Me” to the mopey blues of “Weight,” General Joie paints his portrait of a breakup in warm, soft hues and draws equally on soul, jazz, and folk for inspiration.
The results of this combination are mixed—at best, the songwriting is vivid and touching (“Sigh and a Step,” for instance”), but often, the harmonies and melodies stay in comfortable, well-worn territory that doesn’t draw the listener into the song. Rothman makes up for this in the instrumental portions of his songs, which overall are much stronger than the vocals. “Let’s Make the Most of Our Love” is a good example of this; despite an unexpected samba interlude towards the end of the song, the violin trills and light horn riffs add some much needed zest and color to the predictable vocal melodies.
If “Mandolinterlude” and “Weight” examined the shattering of a relationship and the subsequent depression, “Sigh and a Step” is the turning point, pivoting from a bleak, backwards-looking viewpoint to a hopeful one. Starting with a fingerpicked guitar, the instrumental arrangement slowly unfurls as the song goes on, woven from plucked mandolins, light string arrangements, and unhurried rhythms. The lyrics look back on the broken relationship with sweet, simple imagery: “So we clench its frame until it shatters / only to find it’s beyond repair… tears fall upon debris / see how it’s realigned to be more stunning than before.” Guest singer Rachel Weinstock is at her best here, her direct and uncomplicated vocals beautifully complementing the ornate instrumental production.
Wait For Me‘s mellow brand of soul-infused folk-rock feels familiar and warm, even after one listen. While the EP’s laid-back sound might feel jarring given the heavy subject matter, the songs here highlight his musical potential as a producer and instrumentalist. Given his ambition and talent, you’d be wise to keep an eye for General Joie’s next move in 2017.