Since her stunning album Untitled was released on Bandcamp in 2016, a variety of finished and unfinished songs which were later retitled as Turn Into, Melina Duterte stood out as one of the most notable up-and-coming lo-fi songwriters.
Recording as Jay Som, she started touring with fellow indie rock darlings Japanese Breakfast and Mitski, as well as releasing her official debut Everybody Works through Polyvinyl in 2017. ‘Baybee’ and ‘The Bus Song’ are as catchy and lush as they thrived to be. Whilst getting lumped in with the bedroom pop genre, Jay Som’s music often packs an emotional punch that elevates it from simply being lo-fi.
Anak Ko—pronounced Ah-nuh Koh, meaning “my child” in Filipino—is her candid yet inviting second album. Bursting with youthful energy and sincere sentiment, the jubilant single ‘Superbike’ is an immediate hook. What started out as a warming purr soon evolves into a grandeur and cathartic shoegaze moment. The feedback-drenched guitar kicks in and builds a tremendous climax. Duterte commented she was aiming for the combination of Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette, and it wondrously worked.
The soothing road song ‘Nighttime Drive’ illustrates the past two years of Jay Som’s life as a solo artist, “Always moving, but accepting it, being a little stronger from it,” she explained. Of simple writing about life’s unremarkable trivia, Som details further when she says: “Been watching hours pass inside cars with no glass. Constructing shallow dreams of shoplifting at the Whole Foods.” It’s a breezy listen that can easily get you in a contemplative mood. Fuelled by jangly guitar riffs, ‘Crown’ is another wickedly groovy track that stands out despite not making it as one of the singles.
While Jay Som’s previous works are considerably more energising and ferocious, this album goes down the storytelling route. I definitely miss—and perhaps prefer—the swirling shoegaze noise that has unleashed so many emotions at an instant speed on Turn Into. Nevertheless, Anak Ko remains a rhythmically infectious record delivered with wit, warmth and style. It comforts and calms you down on a rainy day. And most importantly, it represents a grown and matured Jay Som, of delicacy and a little bit more finesse.