Jay Som: Anak Ko Review

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Jay Som: <i>Anak Ko</i> Review

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but Jay Som’s latest LP’s artwork is entirely representative of what you’ll find inside. A girl blithely dances on an edge alone in front of a beautiful dusky sunset, suspending herself in a pose just as Anak Ko floats and drifts from start to finish, seemingly aimless yet entirely driven with purpose.

Melina Duterte’s second full-length record is an exploration in growth as an artist and as an adult, discovering how to boldly navigate change and progress. While this record does nothing to necessarily challenge the listener, Duterte yanks us into her world from the first sharp hypnotic notes of the opening track, “If You Want It,” strongly and openly calling someone out: “I see you clearly / You dance around and fuck with us / A feigned intention / Well no one needs to feel your light,” she sings. While Duterte brings in several of her contemporaries to assist on this record, she opens the album working completely on her own, reminding us of the subdued, solitary power of her last record, 2017’s Everybody Works, Paste’s number album of that year. There’s a confidence in Anak Ko found only through personal development, something that Duterte, now aged 25 and living in Los Angeles, has embraced.

Sonically, this record is cohesive, a breezy midnight drive through a dream world embellished with twangy guitars and fortuitous percussion. Though each song sounds completely different, the record as a whole fits together, uniting musical elements throughout. The first single, “Superbike,” has a classic indie rock sensibility that wouldn’t sound of place on a ‘90s rom-com soundtrack, while “Devotion” is a swan dive into dream pop, loungy at times with gentle xylophone tones layered softly between an angelic chorus and a relaxed fingerpicked guitar. “Devotion” is where Duterte most embraces collaboration, working with several artists including Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko. Anak Ko effortlessly folds bits of shoegaze, math rock, and even a slice of blues and country into her specific brand of chill, mellow indie pop.

While the title of Jay Som’s record means “my child” in Tagalog, a nod to Duterte’s Filipino heritage and upbringing, this album is mature in theme. On the record’s closing track, “Get Well,” Duterte pleads for someone to put the alcohol down, something she recently did herself. She sings, “I’ve been sick like you / I’ve had my share / Don’t wanna find you on the other end.” Duterte is sober now, ready to help others in a downward spiral. Coming to terms with your own indiscretions is personal growth, something very apparent on this record.

For a record made at home, specifically in her bedroom,, Duterte isn’t a fan of the term “bedroom pop.” She recently told writer Zach Schonfeld for Uproxx, “I’ve never gotten why that’s stuck forever. It’s only because I actually record in my bedroom.” Luckily, there’s much more to Jay Som than that genre label.

Being in your mid-twenties is a difficult time to navigate, but thanks to a move to L.A. and newfound sobriety, Duterte has grown up, assuredly holding her place as both an artist and an adult. This album is representative of continued growth, and there’s no sign of stopping anytime soon.