Friday, January 15, 2021
New Music: Jay Som's fever dream—from chopsticks and a...

New Music: Jay Som’s fever dream—from chopsticks and a trumpet

The Oakland-raised lo-fi bedroom indie sensation drops a new single before embarking on a world tour.


If pressure makes a diamond, then overlooked and broken instruments from yesteryear direct the creative arc of Jay Som—aka Oakland-raised, Los Angeles-based producer, songwriter, and musician Melina Duterte. Even when lacking proper rest due to sweltering temps.

“Canʻt Sleep”, a previously unreleased nugget from the recording sessions from her last album Anak Ko (released as a streaming single this week with a physical 7-inch release in May), sounds unthinkable when considering how and when it was made. Duterte explains the sitch this “fever dream” tune came from.

“‘Can’t Sleep’ was made in August or September 2017 while I was living with my parents in between US tours before I moved to LA. I think I had all my gear packed away somewhere that I couldn’t access, so I used instruments leftover in my childhood room: a broken acoustic guitar, chopsticks on a snare drum, a bad hi-hat, and my trumpet. Everything was recorded through the laptop mic. I was pretty frustrated with the California heat and the fact that I couldn’t record properly, so this sort of fever dream song was born.”

The Jay Som dream-pop project—whose name came from random baby name generator—kicks off a massive international tour this month, starting in Australia before heading to Japan, the UK, Europe, and finally returning stateside for some shows with Sharon Van Etten and Julien Baker. She is also slated to perform at some summer festivals, including Governor’s Ball, Boston Calling, Virgin Festival, and more.

Weird and intimating situations seem to be a sweet spot Duterte thrives in musically.

Everybody Works, Jay Som’s debut, reset 2017 qualifications for what indie rock would look and sound like in the 21st Century. Recorded and produced at the time in her Oakland bedroom during three “heavily caffeinated” weeks, the shoegaze, acoustic-folk, and slinky R&B collection was accessible, personal and distinctly human—topping every major music platform Best of 2017 record lists at year-end.

Duterte completed her sophomore record, Anak Ko (pronounced Ah-nuh Koh, and meaning “my child” in Filipino) during a week-long solo retreat to Joshua Tree. While still doing just about everything on the production side at home, this time she invited some friends in on the creation end of things, including Vagabond’s Laetitia Tamko, Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott, Justus Proffit, Boy Scouts’ Taylor Vick, plus bandmates Zachary Elasser, Oliver Pinnell and Dylan Allard to collaborate on additional vocals, drums, guitars, strings, and pedal steel.

The lead track on the new streaming single, “A Thousand Words,” carries a different sentiment than the homestyle b-side joint.

“This song was made after a year of extensive touring plus a canceled tour. I forced myself to make a sort of big and jovial song to bring me out of the funk I was in. I also wanted to remind myself that music can be fun! It was heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Smith, Pavement and that song ‘Alright’ by Supergrass.”

 “A Thousand Words” b/w “Can’t Sleep,” both previously unreleased B-sides from the Anak Ko sessions, are now streaming ahead of the 7-inch’s May 1 physical release via Polyvinyl.
John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

More by this author

Oops, I missed it: A critic’s 2020 regrets

The stand-outs we stood up, from the 30th anniversary of 'Do The Right Thing' to the sounds of Dave Aju, Dehd, and Victoria Monet.

New Music: BBE tribute album explores Bowie’s Black sonic inspirations

Plus: Nubiyan Twist's hard-hitting Afrobeat promises, Beatchild's look back, other fresh tunes to kickstart your week.

Good Things: Glorious rock weirdness and proper retro-soul with which to start 2021

Equal parts sumptuous melodies and indie rock buzzsaw, anyone?

Need a soundtrack for those prosaic city trips? Babeheaven has it.

The West London duo's debut album 'Home For Now' concocts a fetching rainy day mélange.

Jahari Massamba Unit reveals true genius behind jazz-hop experimentation

Madlib's collaboration with percussionist Karriem Riggins provides the Cliff Notes on 2020's fusion wave.

Most read

Chron rejects comments critical of Boudin editorial

Comments supporting the DA don't seem to violate the paper's standards; why were they blocked?

Growth machine wins big in Berkeley

Mayor who ran as a progressive sides with developer-friendly plan for Adeline Corridor.

Make this: La Palma snack wrap

A TikTok-inspired video recipe honoring the 68-year-old Mexicatessen.

COVID outbreak — and media crackdown — at private halfway house in Tenderloin

Center run by private prison contractor on lockdown, and resident punished for contacting the news media about it.

You might also likeRELATED