Anak Ko: Jay Som’s lo-fi ambitions win out

a1017312610_16If you know anything about dreampop, you might have heard of the name Jay Som.

It’s the title for Melina Duterte’s project, based out of San Francisco and now three albums deep in the always-underground indie dreampop scene. And one that should be seeing some actual validation now.

Because Melina Duterte’s latest project Anak Ko, is a fucking good goddamn LP.

Whether the eight-bit keyboard to “Crown,” the shining synth phrase ending to “Anak Ko,” the lazing, acoustic, Dream Academy violins on “Nighttime Drive” or the charging energy of “Superbike,” this is a record of callbacks made into stunning continuity with the rest of dreampop and the independent female singer-songwriter revival. There’s nothing raw about “If You Want It” or “Tenderness” or “Nighttime Drive” or even the title track. There’s nuance to the way they wave in and out of each other. It’s an LP ingratiating Galaxie 500 listeners with fans of Lucy Dacus and Allanis Morrisette, reconciling Weed with the cure, while still finding times to pick on shoegaze phase outs and mimic down tuned guitars, hence the perfect ménage-à-trois between grunge, shoegaze and lo-fi that is “Peace Out.” By the time that guitar solo blasts, Duterte’s impulses are validated, they are balanced and they are wonderful to behold.

And that’s the real risk here: Duterte’s playing a genre that can be utterly repulsive.

All new dreampop/shoegaze hybrids want to get in on this craze and so make their new™ and original© take on a genre that’s been so stale it’s only seen three bands really shake things up: Galaxie 500, Medicine and the xx2.

Most standard dreampop wants to paint life in some disaffected John Hughes flick, a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the only thing Ferris does is go to the mall and stare at the glass pane sunlight coming down off of four tabs his buddy Cameron gave him so that “he could have a real good time” for his next “big day off.” But not every comedown a good movie or good album makes and this is where dreampop seems to live: a perpetual state of “whaaa?” Unable to complete a phrase, no less a song. They stick to what they know: mindless noise, hopelessly buried melodies and airy vocals, all muttering the underwhelming sound of “k.”

At least, that was my first impression of Everybody Works, the mediocre follow-up to the already spotty demotape of Turn Into, which I appreciated much in the way that John Cusack appreciates the tape handed to him by two skateboarders with a dream. But Anak Ko is the project most people heard possible on Everybody Works and the record I’ve wanted since listening to Turn Into—the potential made into the real—a singer-songwriter record double-dipped in dreampop and sealed with lo-fi.

Now if only I could buy it in magenta.

1 Listening to the Shoegaze originators, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, one is struck by the impeccable depth of sound and ability to recover and recap these moments with a solid, if dissonant, tune. If the Righteous Brothers were looking for an unchained melody, then Kevin Shields wanted to find a shackled sound. To detail the sheer heaviness of being with a great drone, to encapsulate the concrete jungle into black vinyl walls. The brilliance is that while Shields describes fifty shades of grey in a midnight cell, he then takes that one moment to explain love in an orange jumpsuit. These aren’t just simple motions to go through, but emotions to play for and with.

Which is an instant plus for purchasing considerations, if not in and of itself an indiehead flex. Special editions, man special, editions.

Jay Som – Anak Ko
Producer: Self-Produced
Label: Polyvinyl
Genre: Dreampop, lo fi Rock, Singer-Songwriter


  1. “If You Want It”
  2. “Superbike”
  3. “Peace Out”
  4. “Devotion”
  5. “Nighttime Drive”
  6. “Tenderness”
  7. “Anak Ko”
  8. “Crown”
  9. “Get Well”

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About BenJamsToo

An insane man moonlighting as a respectable member of society from Portland, Oregon. A rock ‘n’ roller since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” Ben is a lover of all things rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like: most gangsta rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Once upon a time, a friend told him to write about music. So he started doing that under the title of a Willie Bobo cover by Santana. Now he wonders about what Stu McKenzie has for breakfast, why John Congleton is the best damn record producer this side of the millennium and just how Common came to be his favourite hip-hop star. He’s been working on that last one for nearly a decade now. No answers yet.