Jay Som (performing name) A.K.A Melina Duterte is the quickly rising artist based out of Oakland, California originating from the city of Brentwood , CA. Who has just released her first official debut record, Everybody Works via Polyvinyl (a label that has some great bands alongside Jay Som e.g. PWR BTTM and Ladyhawke).
I shall get into Everybody Works in a moment because there are a number of singles (7) and one collection of and I quote, “unfinished and finished songs” together making Turn Into. Dating back from January 2012 named See You, Later, 2014’s forget about it kid through to this year’s album. Quick note it is all made by Duterte in her bedroom and it sounds just as good if not better than some artists on a bigger budget whom use recording studios. Add that to her skills in playing multiple instruments, self production and composition Som’s CV is already pretty loaded.
Up until I Think Your Alright/Rush the songs are all in the same ball park but when Rush came along with its Hawaiian breeze like movements, the upbeat guitar then towards the end that fuzz that is apparent in most of her music enters, it was a sign of what Jay Som could do but also what she wanted to do. It is a very uplifting track that certainly paths the way to what was to come.
After that the collection of songs that make up Turn Into (recorded from March 2o14 to October 2015) was released. However unlike the singles that came directly before it, it is darker because it came out of a time where Duterte was in a bad place. But greyness is not the only colour on it, subtle yellows, purples and greens do show mainly through the uses of guitar lines and vocals brightening the real, relatable and shadowy lyrics.
‘Are you afraid?
I’m not ashamed to feel this way,
You always say “a father would never leave his kids, he’d stay”
But I’m afraid,
You’re breathing in but you’ve been dead the whole time,
I’m looking in,
Am I too late to see you in the light?’
The above lyrics are from the second track Ghost by just reading those words plus the title you may come to the assumption that it is all grey and my statement is false. Upon hearing the single there is a pop quality in there. SLOW again radiates with beautiful colour through the ‘ahh, ahhh, ahh, ahh, ahhhhs’ mixed with the jangly tones, positive mid-paced drums. What Dream Pop is started to make more sense the more I gave it a listen.
Everybody Works if you can believe it was made in the same room as Turn Into but the rawness left, the DIY production took a step up. Now it genuinely sounds like it was made in the best studio money can buy. Resulting in a delightful record that does not only contain some great pop hits but also some funk, plus a slower side is also shown. Never has the phrase ‘a breath of fresh air’ been more fitting. An orchestral soft rising number opens the record named Lipstick Stains it is short, being it all it needs to do, but letting the listener know that the following 33 minutes is going to be a divers adventure.
The lead single The Bus Song has lyrics that again one can relate in places but as ever are purposefully vague. A conscious decision in all of Duterte’s writing leading to a number of standout moments one of those is a verse from The Bus Song,
‘Are Secrets Still a Thing, Are Secrets Still a Thing,
In The Land of Make Believe,
You Can Hide but Can’t Deceive,
I Can’t Tell You Anything, I Can’t Tell You Anything’
Not only is it a great verse but can be interpreted as an observation of modern society’s inability to keep secrets due to Facebook and the media (I am defiantly reading too much into that).
Everybody Works the title track came from the view that a lot of people have of the profession of being a musician which obviously means you are lazy and you should get a ‘real job’ but music like all jobs has worth. But the way I read into the meaning of the song and think that is also something that’s being pointed out is the message why try and be something else other than yourself. Hence Everybody Works.
One More Time, Please is somewhat the wrong title as after hearing it you’ll want to hear it more than just one more time. It is funky with a groovy lick plus a hell of a guitar solo which should make it onto an epic solo list of 2017. It is completely the opposite to the on 1 Billion Dogs which is really jarring.
After a good amount of time listening to Jay Som I still am unsure what Dream Pop is, or if she should be put in that genre. As the music has evolved into many different sounds all of them fantastic and Turn Into plus Everybody Works are outstanding records. It is even more impressive that she plays all/most of the instruments herself and it is all recorded in her bedroom! The hard work, dedication and truly good music that is a product of that should be listened to by all. Jay Som/Melina Duterte is a inspiration for everyone to follow, and her music works.