By Maria Coraza
Melina Duterte, commonly known by the stage-name Jay Som, is a Filipino-American singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Oakland, California. As a self-made and DIY artist, she has poured her reflections on life, growth, and transformation into her musical pursuits. Jay Som’s previous works include Turn Into (2016) and Everybody Works (2017). Her latest album, Anak Ko, was released on Aug. 23, 2019, through Polyvinyl Records.
The album name, Anak Ko, is a Filipino phrase meaning “my child” in the Tagalog language. Although Jay Som’s style is popularly categorized as lo-fi, the production is effortlessly seamless. Anak Ko musically features velvet, soft-spoken vocals supported by an array of acoustic and electric instruments with percussive textures. With lyrics sending the listener back to one nostalgic summer, the melodies and words resonate a familiar kind of peaceful happiness.
I had the pleasure of attending Jay Som’s headliner show at The Barracuda on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Austin, Texas. The show kicked off with Affectionately (Zachary Elsasser), who warmed up the stage with a short set of melancholic, lo-fi tunes. Elsasser eased the audience into the Friday night mood with his friendly demeanor and personable conversation with the audience.
Shortly after his set, Taylor Vick, an Oakland-based singer-songwriter under the moniker Taylor Vick, closed the opening set with warm, vocal hymns and indie-folk jams.
By the time the opening set was over, the crowd grew almost double in size, filling the small outdoor venue with warm anticipation for Jay Som. After the band set up their instruments and equipment, they began their set with the driving piece “If You Want It” from Anak Ko. The anticipation proved rewarding as hits from Anak Ko pulsed through the crowd. Duterte’s voice sounded harmoniously tender on top of the instrumentals.
The band continued to play “Baybee” from the Turn Into album which notably featured a funky bass and euphoric ascending guitar riff. The album-titled track “Anak Ko” presented a slow-melting beat and lingering vocal lines. A unique moment in this song was the ending “Somewhere I can build it” lyric played back through a music sequencer, creating a static offline sound after the build-up of the musical interlude.
Other songs in the setlist included the 80’s inspired “Tenderness”, and the mellow “Nighttime Drive.” The band even covered an impromptu rendition of “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies. A top highlight of the show was when the band performed “Superbike.” As the song hit its peak, Duterte passionately played her guitar solo with a blissful smile on her face. The overall energy was heartwarming and infectious. When the set was over and the audience was not going anywhere, Jay Som and the band appeased the crowd and finished the night with two acoustic love songs.
Even with the sounds of Austin city nightlife (there was a club nearby blasting loud music as well), the show was such a memorable experience, and I felt spiritually and sonically connected to the music. It was lovely to see Affectionately, Boy Scouts, and the Jay Som band hop on the stage and sing backup or play for each others’ bands – It was just like seeing a group of friends have a grand jam session. I am also proud and inspired to recognize Jay Som as a successful Asian-American singer-songwriter embracing her Filipino roots in her own musical style and way.
Featured image by Iliana Ramirez.