By Paul Jacobson | Contributor
As I inch closer and closer to graduating and entering the real world, I've been experiencing the existential dread and angst that all early twenty-somethings go through at this point in their lives. Meilna Duterte, who writes and performs under the name Jay Som, is no different. As a 22-year-old songwriter, she's experiencing similar emotions of anxiety, depression and uncertainty, all of which she documents on her debut album "Everybody Works." Duterte's hopeful perspective on such topics and the expansive and diverse set of songs she uses to explore them make for an album that's a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.
This angst exhibits itself in tracks like the jazzy stand-out "One More Time, Please," which details Duterte's internal struggles with a romantic interest, or on "Remain," where she explores the feeling of being in a relationship that has hit the point of no return. "Take It" sees Duterte fighting against the pity party that we so often place ourselves in when steeped in the throes of depression. She wants to "replace [her] sad with happy / and take it out for a spin," and later jokes "if my memory serves me right / you were easy to break" when her depression threatens to take over again.
The album's sprawling closer "For Light" lets the listener know that not all of life is bad. "I'll be right on time / Open the blinds for light / Won't forget to climb" Duterte repeats toward the end of the song, acknowledging we need to be aware of the bright spots in light, and climb-work-toward those things when they present themselves. Everybody has something they're working through, hence the album's title, "Everybody Works," and Duterte believes that we will all work through these struggles eventually.
"Everybody Works" is among the more sonically diverse yet cohesive projects I've heard this year. Duterte acknowledges and embraces her eclectic songwriting but added in a Pitchfork interview "you know it's me." Indeed, this is the case on "Everybody Works," as there's something consistent embedded in the midst of the tracks-some jangly, some jazzy and some fuzzy-that signifies it as a Jay Som track. Perhaps it's the lushness and layering of the instrumentation; perhaps it's the emotions and insecurities expressed; perhaps it's something more-something that defies description. It may be a combination of any one of those three, but whatever it is, it makes for a very good album.
FAVORITE TRACKS: The Bus Song; One More Time, Please; Baybee; (BedHead); For Light
LEAST FAVORITE TRACK: 1 Billion Dogs