San Francisco has long been a place for artists to explore their creativity and be surrounded by like-minded thinkers, from the beat generation to the bands who carried the San Francisco sound during the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
We will now put aside the large history San Francisco has, to open our eyes to this contemporary musician based in San Francisco. At the end of November last year, Melina Duterte released nine songs as part of her collection of finished and unfinished songs titled Turn Into under the guise of Jay Som.
Some musicians say certain songs are never finished because the songs are perpetually evolving with new context and meaning, though to us, it sounds like it is finished. We very much doubt this is the reason why Som has partly labelled it as unfinished but this set does not resonate like a mixture of finished and unfinished songs, because if there is a difference between the finished and unfinished, it is too insignificant to notice.
Some of the best music has come from basic production such as The Velvet Underground & Nico album or The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan and The Band and what about all those punk albums? Even with technology advancing, one of the most talked about album of this year is by the garage rock group The Hinds.
Basic production is needed for a certain kind of music, and so it is with this collection. These charming amateurish lo-fi recordings have this warmth feel to them, as though you were there watching the recordings in the bedroom for yourself. Did we forget to mention the fact that this was recorded in a bedroom?
How would one describe Som’s sound? Possible by saying it is as a blend of dream pop and alternative rock plus with a trace of melancholy and throw in some distorted guitars – we might be getting closer to the sound. Some of Som’s compositions are united by a juxtaposition effect. A combination of an unsettling quality with this soothing feeling but it all comes together rather nicely.
On the opening song “Peach Boy”, her hazy vocals are in the mix of the layers of blurred guitars that range with extensive variations of style such as the wah-wah effect in the background. The second track “Ghost” is a catchy lead acoustic guitar track that really demonstrates Som’s flair for indie pop melodies but her gloomy approach can still be heard in the instrumentation tones and textures.
The song ends with increased guitar effects and impactful ethereal vocals, to finish the piece off as a contrasting effect to the beginning. While “Why I Say No” is also another faint indie pop tune that has distant vocals echoing lyrics about conformity.
Noted below the song list on her bandcamp, she has written “p.s. I’m still learning the drums”. The only time it was clearly noticeable was on the song “Drown”, as Som produces this standard beat but who really cares when there are better sounds to hear, like the sweeping guitar reverb and the despondent vocals that could make anyone feel the need to contemplate about life. “Slow”, has brief attacking guitar riffs and dynamics resembling Sonic Youth.
Overall, Jay Som is an artist that has many aspects, from her unworldly dream pop creations to her heavy fuzzy guitar-driven songs which all come alive on this wonderful collection. Since the initial release on bandcamp, the collection was later released on cassette via Topshelf Records and Wave Dweller Records.
Also, it was recently announced that Jay Som alongside Japanese Breakfast will be supporting Mitski on her upcoming US and Canada tour. With the news of this and the prospect of a future release by Jay Som, she is definitely an artist to pay attention to.
Words by Jack Walters