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Anak Ko

by Jay Som

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about

Melina Duterte is a master of voice: Hers are dream pop songs that hint at a universe of her own creation. Recording as Jay Som since 2015, Duterte’s world of shy, swirling intimacies always contains a disarming ease, a sky-bent sparkle and a grounding indie-rock humility. In an era of burnout, the title track of her 2017 breakout, Everybody Works, remains a balm and an anthem.

Duterte’s life became a whirlwind in the wake of Everybody Works. After spending her teen years and early 20s exploring an eclectic array of musical styles—studying jazz trumpet as a child, carrying on her Filipino family tradition of spirited karaoke, and quietly recording indie-pop songs in her bedroom alone—that accomplished album found her playing festivals around the world, sharing stages with the likes of Paramore, Death Cab for Cutie, and Mitski.

In November of 2017, seeking a new environment, Duterte left her home of the Bay Area for Los Angeles. There, she demoed new songs, while also embracing opportunities to do session work and produce, engineer, and mix for other artists (like Sasami, Chastity Belt). Reckoning with the relative instability of musicianhood, Duterte turned inward, tuning ever deeper into her own emotions and desires as a way of staying centered through huge changes. She found a community; she fell in love. And for an artist whose career began after releasing her earliest collection of demos—2015's hazy but exquisitely crafted Turn Into—in a fit of drunken confidence on Thanksgiving night, she finally quit drinking for good. “I feel like a completely different person,” she reflects. Positivity was a way forward.

The striking clarity of her new music reflects that shift. After months of poring over pools of demos, Duterte, now 25, essentially started over. She wrote most of her brilliant new album, Anak Ko—pronounced Anuhk-Ko—in a burst during a self-imposed week-long solo retreat to Joshua Tree. As in the past, Duterte recorded at home (in some songs, you can hear the washer/dryer near her bedroom) and remained the sole producer, engineer, and mixer. But for the first time, she recruited friends—including Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko, Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott, Justus Proffitt, Boy Scouts’ Taylor Vick, as well as bandmates Zachary Elasser, Oliver Pinnell and Dylan Allard—to contribute additional vocals, drums, guitars, strings, and pedal steel. Honing in on simplicity and groove, refining her skills as a producer, Duterte cracked her sound open subtly, highlighting its best parts: She’s bloomed.

Inspired by the lush, poppy sounds of 80s bands such as Prefab Sprout, the Cure, and Cocteau Twins—as well as the ecstatic guitarwork of contemporary Vancouver band Weed—Anak Ko sounds dazzlingly tactile, and firmly present. The result is a refreshingly precise sound. On the subtly explosive “Superbike,” Duterte aimed for the genius combination of “Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette”—“letting loose,” she says, over swirling shoegaze. “Night Time Drive” is a restless road song, but one with a sense of contentedness and composure, which “basically encapsulated my entire life for the past two years,” she says—always moving, but “accepting it, being a little stronger from it.” (She sings, memorably, of “shoplifting at the Whole Foods.”) Duterte focused more on bass this time: “I just wanted to make a more groovy record,” she notes.

The slow-burning highlight “Tenderness” begins minimally, like a slightly muffled phone call, before flowering into a bright, jazzy earworm. Duterte calls it “a feel-good, funky, kind of sexy song” in part about “the curse of social media” and how it complicates relationships. “That’s definitely about scrolling on your phone and seeing a person and it just haunts you, you can’t escape it,” Duterte says. “I have a weird relationship to social media and how people perceive me—as this person that has a platform, as a solo artist, and this marginalized person. That was really getting to me. I wanted to express those emotions, but I felt stifled. I feel like a lot of the themes of the songs stemmed from bottled up emotions, frustration with yourself, and acceptance.”

The title, Anak Ko, means “my child" in Tagalog, one of the native dialects in the Philippines. It was inspired by an unassuming text message from Duterte’s mother, who has always addressed her as such: Hi anak ko, I love you anak ko. “It’s an endearing thing to say, it feels comfortable,” Duterte reflects, likening the process of creating and releasing an album, too, to “birthing a child.” That sense of care charges Anak Ko, as does another concept Duterte has found herself circling back to: the importance of patience and kindness.

“In order to change, you’ve got to make so many mistakes,” Duterte says, reflecting on her recent growth as an artist with a zen-like calm. “What’s helped me is forcing myself to be even more peaceful and kind with myself and others. You can get so caught up in attention, and the monetary value of being a musician, that you can forget to be humble. You can learn more from humility than the flashy stuff. I want kindness in my life. Kindness is the most important thing for this job, and empathy.”

credits

released August 23, 2019

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Jay Som Los Angeles, California

Melina Duterte: jaysommusic@gmail.com

mgmt: chad@saltymgmt.com

North American/South American/Australian Booking: mbetts@paradigmagency.com + eberlin@paradigmagency.com

EU Booking: mattpcopley@primarytalent.com
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Track Name: If You Want It
I can’t remember
The words were forming in your mouth
You’ve found another
To bring you joy and play a part
I’m turning inside out
With the thought of a new day
I’ll only come around
If you want it

I see you clearly
You dance around and fuck with us
A feigned intention
Well no one needs to feel your light
Track Name: Superbike
I’m not that kind of fool
Who needs to read the room
(Somebody tell me)
If I’ve fallen from your lips
Straight to your fingertips
(Somebody tell me)

Now you’re waiting in the light
Patiently to my surprise
(Somebody tell me)
I pick up the superbike
Going 80 in the night
(Somebody tell me)
Said you wanted something else
Something new for show and tell
Gonna breathe until you’re gone
Gonna breathe until you’re
Track Name: Peace Out
Point me to my chair
Make me sing that awful song
That you cannot bear
Still you take until it’s gone
No hard
No hard feelings

Want me to say right words?
Make you feel incredible
I’m selling myself short
Pulling teeth to make it work
No hard
No hard feelings

Won’t you try
Won’t you try to forgive
Won’t you try
Won’t you try to be anyone else

We pace around the room
Make good friends with shiny floors
This apartment’s so cold
Got not heat to fill the noise
You’re driving no control
Wanna crack the window
Toss your phone
I’m in trouble tomorrow
We’ve got time to fake it so
No hard
No hard feelings

Won’t you try
Won’t you try to forgive
Won’t you try
Won’t you try to be anyone else
Track Name: Devotion
Used to be the one to cry
And feel the motions
Painted a path to find
A strange devotion
I changed my mind
Well, look no further
Just takes some time
To come back down to earth

(It’s only change)
I changed my mind
Just takes some time

I wanna change
I wanna change
Track Name: Nighttime Drive
I’m sinking in my bed
We’re leaving town tomorrow
It’s only for the memories
So used to feeling numb

Shifting through the nighttime drive
We’ll be alright

Been watching hours pass
Inside cars with no glass
Constructing shallow dreams of
Shoplifting at the Whole Foods

My baby says I’m growing tough
“Don’t let others define you”
I’m sticking to the script now
I’ll let my body win

Shifting through the nighttime drive
It’ll be a while
Track Name: Tenderness
Tell me
Did you fall in at first glance?
Do you think you’ll take a chance?
Do you think on the weekend I could know?

Show me
Before you haunt me on the screen
Will my affection pull the strings?
Another forgotten memory

We’ve built
This city that we’re sinking in
Nobody wants to play pretend
I just know that

I’m feeling like we’ve just begun
Nothing’s ever good enough
Tenderness is all I’ve got
Track Name: Anak Ko
Pretend to play it
Let’s fall in love
This game, so hollow
I come undone
We’ll keep it quiet
Won’t show you off
Somewhere I’ll feel it
When you are gone
Track Name: Crown
Arranging your best words
Tying the knot
A brighter tomorrow
Could you take a shot?

Don’t wanna slow down
Don’t wanna forget
The company’s fine
The feeling’s alright

You’ve got your best friends
Searching for miles
Static in their heads
Eating the night

Don’t wanna slow down
Don’t wanna forget
The company’s fine
The feeling’s alright
Don’t wanna come down
Don’t wanna jump in
The moment’s enough

You never had to follow through
You’re singing now
Still out of tune
The crown belongs to second best
You’ll do it all over again
Track Name: Get Well
Get well
I hope you can
How do you find peace
With a drink in your hand
I’ve been sick like you
I’ve had my share
Don’t wanna find you
On the other end

I will be your friend
Keep you safe instead
I’ll show you you’re special
I don’t want to forget

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