The phrase “anak ko,” according to the press release of its namesake album, means “my child” in Tagalog. While it’s a clear nod to the Filipino roots of Melina Duterte - better known as Jay Som - it’s also an understated acknowledgement of the overprotective love an artist has for their work. Anak Ko flows with that innocuous love, and even when it succumbs to a couple instances of ‘helicopter parenting’, it stands as a fundamentally strong album.
There’s a subtle clarity in Anak Ko’s progression from the bedroom ‘dream pop’ aesthetic of Jay Som’s debut Everybody Works. Now it seems to be bedroom rock, and multiple shades of it at that; lead single Superbike swirls like the best of shoegaze, while Peace Out immediately follows it with grungy tones and restrained contempt for an ex-friend. It’s a more conventional affair compared to contemporaries like Mitski - or even to its predecessor, lacking seven-minute opuses, or a moment as tender as Lipstick Stains’ gentle chords wafting through the breeze. All the same, it comfortably showcases enough smart songwriting and sticky hooks to the point where that’s not a problem.
What’s more important is the lyrical and mental clarity that Jay Som has found. Free of alcohol (implied in Get Well’s soothing refrain of “how do you find peace / with a drink in your hand”) and less burdened by introverted tendencies, the result is a bright and confident performance without detracting from her typical understated delivery. Nothing Som says is necessarily cryptic - nothing could be clearer than the crooning of “I wanna change” on Devotion - but nothing’s especially overt either, making you listen between the lines to fully realise the solidarity she holds for herself.
Ultimately, this is a more enlightened and empowered version of Jay Som - but it also feels like her waking after a long hibernation, stretching her limbs until the muscle memory of her former freewheeling experimentation syncs up with her new state of mind. When that happens, it’ll be a sight to behold.
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Released: 23 Aug 2019