Genre: Dream Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Superbike,” “Nighttime Drive,” “Crown,” “Get Well”
Melina Duterte has always dabbled in the realm of dreams—the genre of “dream pop” both implies and demands this—but the varietals of dreams from song-to-song and album-to-album come in a host of wildflower shades. The song “One More Time, Please” off of EVERYBODY WORKS is deep REM conjurings, “The Bus Song” is a hazy, emblazoned dream, “1 Billion Dogs” is tossing and turning, a fever dream of pent-up emotion, standalone single “I Think You’re Alright” is a half-asleep love dream, and much of her latest album, ANAK KO, embodies a bright and breezy daydream. Here, Duterte exhibits her usual brand of instrumental acuity, contemplative lyrical honesty, and dreamy melodies. With thoughtful, fully-realized production, excursions into sounds of the past, as well as literal and metaphorical journeys, ANAK KO further proves Jay Som’s musical savviness and solidifies her status in the dream pop scene and beyond.
Fittingly recorded from her home bedroom studio, the production of Jay Som’s albums has always been on point, and her musical blend is as impeccable as ever on ANAK KO. Each song is expertly mixed to soundtrack our mid-day wandering minds or headphone-clad walks, yet Duterte doesn’t shy away from a range of sounds. The use of slide guitar in the final track, “Get Well,” takes us to wide open plains and desert mountain scapes with its airy, lofty melancholy. Eternally intimate, she manages to make the sprawling sound of slide guitars a delicately layered ensemble that feels as though you’re listening to her sing to you from the very walls of her room. There’s a playful jazziness in “Devotion,” bending and expanding the parameters of her genre that brings a jaunty exuberance to the middle of the album. “Tenderness” provides a muted, pin-up scuzziness that builds into a sweet, high-waisted-bikini-on-the-boardwalk saunter. We’re treated to swirling analog, punctuated with digital indistinguishability and an electronic lilt in her vocals on the title track before we move to the soft edge of the grunge-pierced guitar that dips in and out of “Crown.”
There is a certain nostalgia woven into ANAK KO that builds on her far off dreaminess. “Superbike” could have been found among the discography of Sixpence None the Richer, the Cranberries, the Sundays, or a long lost collab with all three. The steelier acoustic guitar, with its swelling haziness, and the light, enchanting notes she hits, bring us to sunlit afternoons of the late-‘90s and running your hand through the air outside a moving car. “Nighttime Drive” has similar qualities, the keyboard riff and violins updating the period-specific tune to include a more modern indie-folk tint. The reminiscence of another time has the distant fuzziness of a dream that you’d almost forgotten.
The use of literal transportation imagery as symbols for being transported by dream is a general Jay Som-motif, recurring throughout her entire body of work. “The Bus Song” (EVERYBODY WORKS), as well as “Superbike,” and ”Nighttime Drive,” all hold the allusions and imagery of going somewhere, of transporting, of getting from A to B. Also present are less literal transportation, but rather transformation motifs, or getting from A to B through change; ideas such as “won’t you try to be anyone else…” (“Peace Out”) or “With the thought of a new day (I’m turning inside out)” (“If You Want”), or “I wanna change, I wanna change” (“Devotion”), or “We’re leaving town tomorrow / It’s only for the memories” (“Nighttime Drive”). The idea of change, of moving away from the past or oneself, frequents the pages of ANAK KO’s lyric book. Each song takes us out of our own heads and into whatever excursion is to befall us next.
Jay Som continues to create intimate daydreams and music for those moments where you’re alone in good company. ANAK KO hits a space right between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn: the excitement of a burgeoning season, and the content readiness for hot nights to taper off while still indulging by watching dusk bleed into the trees from the porch. The quiet playfulness and pensive swells soundtracking the perfect daydream as your mind disappears out your bedroom window and off to the furthest corners you’ve never been. We close: sitting at the edge of the woods as the sun sets, the warmth of the summer day giving way to a cool night, leaves crisping at their edges, and stare off miles away to the sage brush mountain-side, overlooking someone else’s life.