Melina Duterte, aka Jay Som, seems to be bringing something back to pop songwriting. Something that is sadly lacking in so many “pop” albums as of late. Pure songcraft. Not since St. Vincent’s debut have I been taken this aback by a new artist. Duterte isn’t satisfied with just a good song. She starts with a good song, then builds on the framework and ornaments it into something quite spectacular. She’s as DIY as they come; writing, recording, performing, and producing herself like a pro. But at only 22-years old this Oakland native is just starting. If Everybody Works is just starting, then I can’t even begin to imagine what hitting her stride will sound like.
Everybody Works succeeds on so many levels. It’s a confessional heartbreak album, it’s a catchy-as-hell pop album, and it’s an expertly constructed art rock. Duterte spares no bells and whistles, yet the album still feels very intimate. “Lipstick Stains” opens the album on this beautiful dream-like note. An airy, lush piece that sounds like a cross between Rufus Wainwright and Cocteau Twins. It’s accusatory and longing all at once. “The Bus Song” has a modern pop feel, with bits of Jon Brion production touches and No Joy in pure sweetness mode. “Remain” is an absolute gem of a song. Early 80s alternative shimmers and shines with with Lush-like melancholy. “1 Billion Dogs” sounds like Veruca Salt on a Blake Babies kick. It’s all fuzzed-out punk goodness, but with a syrup-y sweet center.
Elsewhere Jay Som confronts an ex-lover in “One More Time, Please” and on “(Bedhead)” she unravels like a warped cassette tape spewing in a Sebadoh-like confessional track. Duterte’s voice always remains sweet and innocent throughout these tracks, which adds to the pain she’s attempting to exorcise through song. “I’m a good kid/I swear I don’t lie” Melina sings in title track “Everybody Works” like a less jaded Liz Phair. There’s just the right amount of fuzzy guitar and sweetly sung vocals that make you want go back for another listen. “For Light” ends the album on a dreamy, shoegaze-y note, stretching over 7-minutes of loping drums, gently strummed guitars, and an almost Prince-like soulful mourn. It’s a beautiful ending.
Melina Duterte is one of my new favorite songwriters. She puts songs together like a master builder, laying a solid foundation and then building up from there. Ornamenting and arranging these mini-symphonies to put in my ears. She creates these lush sonic worlds with each track.
Everybody Works is a stunning debut from Jay Som. I can’t wait to hear what comes next.
8.2 out of 10