Jay Som - Anak Ko

a1017312610_16_600_600.jpg

With a quick rise amongst a new wave of indie songwriters, Melina Duterte has seen a lot of change for herself in the wake of her newfound success. Relocating to Los Angeles, she retreated to Joshua Tree where the ideas for her second studio album surfaced. With the clarity and inspiration Duterte (Jay Som) garnered, she comes through with her most emotional forthcoming, self-reflective music yet. Her first proper studio album Everything Works was very well received as a result of her smart blend of shoegaze, dream-pop, and lo-fi indie rock. But whereas that album often, and deservedly so, went for big pop inspired moments (take for example the excellent single “Baybee”), Anak Ko, which translates to “my child” in Tagalog, is stripped back, giving more space for Jay Som’s evocative songwriting and introspective lyrics to breathe.

“If You Want It” starts things off on a moodier note. The spiky post-punk guitars wouldn’t feel too out of place on The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds. The darker aspects of the track, however, give a nice contrast to Jay Som’s woozy, sun-tinted vocals. “Superbike” features jangly, indie guitars pulled straight out of the 90s best slacker rock records. Duterte’s vocals soar, with a reverb heavy sound channeling the ethereal melodies of Cocteau Twins.

Anak Ko is an intimate record about growth and change. Take for example the somber breakup song “Peace Out.” “Won’t you try to forgive? Won’t you try to be anyone else?” she asks an estranged love interest. The themes couldn’t be any more plainspoken than on the twinkly “Devotion.” The track climaxes at it’s conclusion as Duterte passionately repeats the phrase “I wanna change; I wanna change.” It’s one of many highly cathartic moments on Anak Ko.

The middle section of the album takes a quieter turn. “Nighttime Drive” is a lush daydream led by Duterte’s gentle delivery and sweetly strummed acoustic guitar. “Constructing shallow dreams of shoplifting at Whole Foods” is one of the more standout lines on the album. “Tenderness” is one of the more left-field songs in the Jay Som catalog. With its jazzy feel, electronic elements are mixed with a chill lounge attitude. It is exciting to see her ability to branch out and experiment like this.

The title track pits gorgeous acoustic guitar against hazy drones and hums. Jay Som brings in a subtle bitterness to “Crown,” as she says goodbye to a toxic relationship: “You've never had to follow through/You're single now, still out of tune/You climb the ropes to second best.”

“Get Well” is a heartfelt closing number. Jay Som, who recently gave up drinking, reflects on her recent sobriety. Meanwhile, she reaches a hand to a friend in a low point. “I've been sick like you/I've had my share/Don't wanna find you/On the other end.” It’s a truly moving and tender moment to end on.

 Anak Ko is a leap forward for Jay Som, displaying a considerable amount of growth and maturity as a songwriter. Taking cues from many forms of alternative music of the 80s and 90s, Jay Som creatively formulates a sound all her own without nose-diving straight into a pool of nostalgia. These nine songs are lush, intricately crafted, and glowing with character. While holding on to an airtight cohesiveness, each track adds a level of musical diversity, never allowing the album to go stale. This sophomore release sees Duterte evolving as a person, allowing her music to morph in the process. The result is captivatingly beautiful.

 Grade: A