“All of my songs are so different, but you know it’s me”
It seems that Melina Duterte has settled into adulthood. Listening to her latest release, it feels as if she has found an inner peace in the understanding that everybody does indeed have to work. Luckily for Duterte (and for us), her penchant for crafting dreamy melodies under the moniker of Jay Som has now become her full time occupation after being signed by Polyvinyl Records. As such, the lo-fi indie fuzz of her earlier releases, a product of her modest bedroom-pop beginnings, has developed into a more produced, multi-layered effort that traverses the genres and styles that have clearly had the biggest influence on her songwriting. Throughout the funk jams, anthemic choruses and slow-burning-late-night-hip-swayers that make up her debut however, there is a constancy in Duterte’s intimate demeanour, especially in her contemplative lyricism.
“Take time to figure it out” she declares on the gorgeous, pop-indebted ‘The Bus Song’, the first of many in this album. The phrase could easily have served as her mantra during the recording process, reflective of the gentle pace she has followed, choosing not fill songs to the brim with ideas but gently introduce them instead. Take the alarmingly beautiful ‘Lipstick Stains’ and the slowly unravelling epic ‘For Light’, the album’s bookends. Both are imbued with a certain cosiness, evoking the blissful feeling of being half-awake in their warm instrumentation and breathy vocals, easing the listener in and out of the album much like a dream. When songs do reach their eventual climax, they never buckle under their own weight but satisfyingly realise their potential (see the manic jazz-influenced solo of ‘1 Billion Dogs’).
Like tour partners Mitski and Japanese Breakfast then, Jay Som’s latest work feels particularly refreshing. Produced and recorded independently of any outside influence, Everybody Works is a rarity of the indie scene, providing us with a candid glimpse into the mind of a hardworking modern woman free to express herself without being dismissed or silenced. Discussing the aforementioned tour in a recent Pitchfork profile, Duterte stated “we’re all Asian-American women in indie music, which is mostly white-male dominated… for me, it felt like we had a mission”. Whilst this mission still remains to be accomplished, her astonishing debut is certainly a step in the right direction.