By: Amanda McMillan
Meleina Duterte, aka Jay Som, has a wisdom and a nuanced talent beyond her 25 years, which is something we hear yet again on her third album (in three years!), Anak Ko. With this album in particular, she fits in nicely amongst her contemporaries like Mitski, girlpool, Waxahatchee, and Chastity Belt (which makes sense, given that Annie Truscott is featured on the album).
Her alt rock sensibilities are in all the right places, which is a helluva feat for someone who has recorded and produced all her own albums. In comparison to her first two albums, Anak Ko very much feels more mature, more nuanced, with more room to breathe. As a stand alone album, it evokes a sense of self-discovery, exploration, and curiosity. If that doesn't sum up what it's like to be 25, then I don't know what does.
One of the most outstanding track is "Peace Out." From that very first note, it's wrought with an angst and a heaviness that comes from a break up. As she sings "No hard, no hard feelings" you can feel the duality of that statement being both insincere and desperately wanting to mean it. Its muted chord progression allows for the vocals to pull us in, and while in particularly tender moods, even relive our own heartbreak.
However, from the beginning of "If You Want It," its catchy guitar riff and vibey bass line feels like we're listening in on that particularly special moment in songwriting and composing where you play something by accident and turn it into a real song. About halfway through the track, the distorted guitar solo feels a touch gratuitous, but that bass line really holds it down and keeps the song from spinning off into space. However, the fun little synth moment that comes in later keeps the song from feeling too repetitive and adds some of Jay Som's flare.
Songs like "Superbike," "Devotion," and "Get Well" take guitar nods from 90s pop rock, 80s New Wave, and country respectively. It becomes clear from the onset of this album that Jay Som's influences are wide, and play a unique role in her songwriting. There is a thread that weaves its way through each song, connective tissue that keeps the album from feeling too all over the place, however what's going to serve Jay Som in the future is narrowing in on what makes her stand out, beyond her pure musical capability.
This album is melancholy, but unlike Mitski, it never makes me cry. It has soft moments such as "Tenderness." It's not so much that there is something missing, but rather that this is an artist we're hearing evolve with every album. This is an artist who is honing her craft. Her instincts are in all the right places, and the more she pushes, the more she creates, and the more she continues to open up her process, the better she's going to get.