Album Review: Jay Som – Everybody Works

By Tanner Bidish, Staff Writer
[Polyvinyl; 2017]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “The Bus Song,” “One More Time, Please,” “Take It”

Melina Duterte – a.k.a. Jay Som –  is 22, and despite her youth, she shows no lack of experience. Her 2016 compilation record, Turn Into, was a lo-fi hit, and she does it again on her debut album, Everybody Works. Each sound on the record is made by Duterte herself, aside from some backing vocals. Even while continuing her DIY bedroom-recording methods, Duterte’s new release strikes a more calculated cord. This album is a complete work: whole, seamless, deft and dynamic. Its sound ranges from fuzzy, funky, dreamy, and more, and does so comfortably. It never misses a beat or drops the ball. The keenest of the positive qualities that Everybody Works seems to be flooded with is its dedication to pacing. Duterte’s songwriting has a certain composure that shows on each track: That’s what makes the latest from Jay Som so great.

Slow moments, in music and also in life, are relaxing and needed. “Lipstick Stains” serves as a reminder of this truism, and does so powerfully as an intrepid opening number. Instruments slowly come to life, and Duterte holds back from contributing her voice until over halfway through the song’s runtime. The track is gentle and warm and eases the listener into the spirit of the record. Following up is the album’s single, and official banger, “The Bus Song.” With a catchy chorus, a tuneful guitar melody and a thumping little bass part, this track is pleasant in all regards. And even in its catchiness, “The Bus Song” never flies off the handle. Like the entirety of the album, it remains controlled in the best ways.

The album’s duality to be equal parts fun and insightful is well achieved. Everybody Works‘ prime example is the funky vibes of “One More Time, Please.” Duterte sings about the collapse of relationship over calm yet dancey percussion. “I’m not okay / I don’t feel like ‘come here’ / We’re not the same.” She trails off her last line in the middle of the tune and makes way for a dreamy guitar solo to close it off. Beautiful moments like this exist throughout the record. Some tracks are easy to groove to, like “Baybee” and “Everybody Works,” while others are rock jams, like “1 Billion Dogs” and “Take It.” And every song is worth your time.

Jay Som provides listeners with respite and relief on the new album. Everybody Works is solid; great songwriting, intimate recording, and expert pacing culminate in a release you won’t want to sleep on this year.

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