On her debut album ‘Everybody Works’, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Melina Duterte, who performs as Jay Som, crafted a gorgeously understated set of indie-rock songs that placed her alongside the likes of Snail Mail, (Sandy) Alex G and Soccer Mommy as a new breed of exciting indie-rockers coming out of the US.
While her songwriting expertise was clear to see on the debut, ‘Everybody Works’ sat under a fog of washed-out reverb. On second album ‘Anak Ko’, though, this mask is removed and the songs stand alone, their stark beauty and warmth fully exposed. The results are stunning. The songs that make up ‘Anak Ko’ are intricate and memorable, but never become too clever for their own good – guitar riffs cross over each other harmoniously on opener ‘If You Want It’, while the album’s title track is a lo-fi cut punctuated with gorgeously rich, full plucks of acoustic guitar.
‘Anak Ko’ is an immediately warm, inviting listen, but it takes a fair few listens for the lyrical darkness underneath to reveal itself. “You’ve found another to bring you joy and play a part / I’m turning inside out with the thought of a new day,” she sings on ‘If You Want It’, before being unable to conceal the anger: “I see you clearly / You dance around and fuck with us / A feigned intention / Well no one needs to feel your light.” It’s sung so sweetly and with so much care, though, that it takes a while to believe that such a rich, tender song would harbour such lyrics.
Across ‘Anak Ko’, Duterte grapples with feelings of loss and heartbreak, but the end goal always seems to be one of redemption and self-care, rather than pure anger. Even if the songs do contain healthy doses of bitterness, they seem slowly dispelled and resolved through the creation of songs as beautifully comforting as the soft strum of ‘Nighttime Drive’ and the jangly ‘Devotion’, which takes its cue from ‘Everybody Works’ highlight ‘Baybee’.
“I changed my mind,” Duterte sings on ‘Devotion’. “Look no further, it just takes some time to come back down to earth,” she continues, before repeating the track’s refrain at its close: “I wanna change.” By removing the safety net of her debut and baring herself both musically and lyrically on album two, Jay Som has not only become a better songwriter, but now feels like an important one too. The messages on ‘Anak Ko’ are worth lending a close ear to.