Music Reviews
Anak Ko

Jay Som Anak Ko

(Polyvinyl) Rating - 7/10

Melina Duterte—known by her stage name Jay Som—has an ear for bedroom pop that any teenager aspiring to write the next Great American DIY Record would envy, and it’s an ear all her own. Consistent throughout all Duterte’s work is the notion that she records, engineers, mixes, masters, and performs everything herself in her own space. Such was the mentality of 2017’s Everybody Works (Duterte’s sophomore full-length LP, preceded by 2016’s Turn Into), an album intimate in scope yet sublime in execution. Works was a definite highlight that year if only for the fact that it sounded so seamless and so lush despite every instrument on the record being played by one person. I dare call it a “musical achievement” that Duterte cobbled together such a powerful collection of gorgeously arranged songs in a makeshift home studio all by her lonesome. And while Duterte has enlisted the help of other musicians for her latest release, she hasn’t entirely lost her musical individuality.

Anak Ko—translated from Tagalog as “my child” (Duterte is of Filipino descent, something she’s stated as a major influence)—has a sizeable list of guest musicians, some of which are indie-rock peers of Duterte’s. Laetitia Tamko of Vagabon contributes vocals on Peace Out and Devotion, as does Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts on Superbike and Tenderness. And several other names take the reigns of guitar and drums on various tracks, such as Oliver Pinnell, who plays guitar on the title track and track eight, Crown (one Nicholas Merz mans the pedal steel on closing cut, Get Well). But even with these other cooks in the kitchen, Duterte remains the executive chef. All nine tracks here were still composed and produced by her.

That’s not to say Anak isn’t a change of pace for Duterte, nor is it hard to tell that there were other humans involved in the making of it. It sounds crisper and more structured than Works, no doubt a result of extra people being present to provide input for creative decisionmaking. I’m thinking specifically of Nighttime Drive. On a tonal level, that song echoes The Bus Song, one of the previous album’s highlights. The guitars on both tracks sound warm, content, nostalgic, and a bit pensive, snapped to a steady mid-tempo rhythm. However, Nighttime Drive is immediately recognizable as sounding cleaner compositionally, as are the rest of the tracks here. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I also think that, as a side effect, it sounds less characterized than Bus Song, which was a common thread among many of the standout moments on Works—they sounded personal.

One feature of the previous record that carries through to Anak Ko is its brevity. Clocking in at about 35 minutes, it’s only one minute shorter than its predecessor, neither of which is much longer than an episode of a sitcom. Both in runtime and sound, this is an undeniably breezy album, quite possibly the least arduous thing I’ve heard this year. Fans of Jay Som will certainly feel right at home with it, and I found myself singing along to the hooks on songs like Superbike and Peace Out within only a couple listens. But after my fifth or sixth go-around, it became clear to me that Anak was a very good album and only a very good album. Don’t expect it to linger like Jay Som’s last, but do expect it to keep you company as these waning days of summer transform into fall.