To me, the key appeal of bedroom pop is the sense of intimacy that it can create. Extraneous theatrics are stripped back, but not to the point where songs become boring. By removing melodrama, songs feel direct and immediate, like somebody singing their innermost thoughts straight into your ear.
While it would be unfair to classify her music as being entirely bedroom pop—most of her songs sound radically different from one another, and draw influences from a wide range of genres—Melina Duterte, who performs as Jay Som, has made a name for herself over the past few years thanks to her highly polished and outstanding brand of dream pop. Her songs carry a weighty wisdom to them, and her sincerity often comes forth in spades.
Taking to the stage after opener Boy Scouts (you can read our review of their performance here), Jay Som opened with “If You Want It”, the first track off of Anak Ko, her most recent album. The song’s twangy and steady bassline gradually built and built, culminating in a frenzied keyboard freakout. “Turn Into”, the only song she played from her 2016 debut of the same name, followed. Supported by a generous amount of reverb-heavy guitar, Duterte’s voice took on a breathier, gentle tone as she sang about the painful, yet necessary inevitability of change, “My shadow disappeared / Been gone for several years / I wait for its return.” Then, the warm, slinky, and groovy opening notes to crowd-pleaser “Baybee” filled the air. “Baybee” is the sort of song that you wish would magically come on while you stare out the window of a bus, an exceedingly tender track that also perfectly captures the pains of romantic anxiety. The crowd savoured every word of the song’s chorus—“If I leave you alone / When you don’t feel right / I know we’ll sink for sure,” Duterte cooed.
Jay Som steadily made her way through several more songs, mostly from Anak Ko. The album’s title track was a perfect example of Duterte’s versatility, going from moody and sparsely arranged instrumentation into a rumbling, unsettling, monolithic wall of shoegaze-y fuzz. Emerging from the other side of that wall to a chopped up vocal sample—“Somewhere I can build it”—felt magical and oddly clarifying, like coming to a much-needed conclusion after hours of late night rumination. “Peace Out” was a fantastic indie rock number that firmly ditched any lo-fi haze, and also steadily built towards a brilliant and exhilarating breakdown. The contrast between the unwavering calm in Duterte’s voice and the heavy, explosive, discordant electric guitar & drums that surrounded her was stunning, and left the crowd unsure of whether or not they should have been dancing along or standing still. “Superbike”, the lead single from Anak Ko, sounded like an exploratory late night adventure with it’s roving guitar chords, and had the crowd enthusiastically shouting the songs “somebody tell me” refrain back at the band.
The band began to steadily bring their set to a close, playing songs such as “Pirouette”, fan favourites “The Bus Song”—which had the audience chanting the iconic “but I like the bus!” line—and “I Think You’re Alright”, which transitioned into “Lipstick Stains”, the final track of the night. Her bandmates suddenly stopped playing, placing Duterte and her guitar center stage. The choice of song initially puzzled me (“Why would you use such a short track to close out your set?”, I thought to myself.), but as the crowd stood there, hypnotized by Duterte and her guitar, hanging onto every last word that she spoke, I realized that there was no better choice of song to end the night with.
Her last words of the night were a delicate sigh: “I pray it lasts a while.” I left The Sinclair and ventured forth into the cold Cambridge night, feeling a newfound warmth inside of me that I too, prayed would last a while.