By Samuel Orazem EBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
“Anak Ko,” which translated from Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, reads “My Child,” is a change-of-pace-album for Melina Duterte, the woman behind Jay Som. Following her hit album, “Everybody Works,” the solo act was thrust into the festival circuit and indie stardom limelight, but she’s proceeded to make a series of changes to her life. “Anak Ko” tells the story of an artist moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, leaving past romances behind and opening up to new workflows and collaborations.
Duterte’s previous project was an encapsulation of what bedroom-pop albums have become: an amalgam of dozens of styles and genres that renders an extremely personal and intimate sound. Bedroom-pop is often more about the listening experience than the style; admittedly, having been literally written, recorded and engineered in a bedroom may also have something to do with that designation. But the closest you can get to pinning down “Anak Ko” is that it is an evolution from her previous work’s hazy, bedroom-studio charm that makes heavy use of elements of the shoegaze subgenre, such as ethereal vocals, heavily-processed guitars and an emphasis on atmosphere over melody. However, calling it a shoegaze or dream-pop album would be a disservice to the breadth and variety of influences that can be heard over “Anak Ko’s” short, 35-minute run time.
The arguably three best tracks on the album demonstrate Duterte’s diversity of artistic inspirations. “Superbike,” a song about the flight response one feels after heartbreak, is the first standout track of the album, drawing obvious influence of the 90s era shoegaze with an assortment of hazy guitars and droning melodies artfully intertwined by Duterte.
“Nighttime Drive,” conversely, evolves from a track centered around acoustic guitar to one dominated by folk violin; the rolling basslines and strumming acoustic may remind listeners of singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco’s soft rock. And all of this is underlined by simple percussion that builds on the track’s energy throughout.
Last but certainly not least of the three, “Tenderness” is an understated pop ballad that sports a dreamy, trance-like sonic signature as Duterte puts her vocal chops on center stage with dancey drum sequencing and funky guitars backing her up.
Duterte’s mastery of intertwining countless subgenres of pop, indie and more is what transforms “Anak Ko” into a musical Matryoshka doll. Casual listening will reveal how many different genres Duterte pulled from, active listening will allow you to hear specific artists’ influence and some detective work will leave you recognizing elements from genre-pioneering tracks.
Despite the library of influences and genres Duterte pulls from, there is something distinctly recognizable and attributable to Som about “Anak Ko.” While it does not sound like anything she has made before, fans of hers will instantly recognize her. The dreamlike quality that defines this album’s sounds is a mature version of the intimate vibes that made “Everybody Works” so popular; “Anak Ko” utilizes psychedelic timbres in concert with the characteristics of her past work to tell a story of massive changes, strife and growth. It works beautifully.