by Landen Winkles
Virtuous though it may be, patience is a difficult quality to capture in guitar rock, a medium that much prefers boldness, concision, and urgency. Perhaps that’s why Bay Area multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte’s reverence for the human capacity to wait, think and grow comes across as a revelation on “Everybody Works,” her first official album as Jay Som. “Take time to figure it out,” she advises on lead single, “The Bus Song.” In its context, she’s caught between relationship statuses, assuring the object of her fixation that she’ll “be the one who sticks around.” As an introduction to an album full of reminders not to rush things, though, the line is enough of a relief to make you involuntarily exhale.
Twenty-two-year-old Duterte made the fuzzy, dreamy, plaintive aesthetic her own on “Turn Into,” nine self-recorded tracks she uploaded to Bandcamp on a tipsy whim over a year ago. She later re-released with Polyvinyl in late 2016, billing the makeshift debut as a collection of “finished and unfinished songs” rather than a proper album. Although she made “Everybody Works” alone in her bedroom studio, its repertoire ranges from folk to funk to chart pop. It’s not a bedroom-pop album because it sounds a certain way, but because it feels so intimate. Most of Duterte’s elaborate songs could be mistaken for full-band compositions, yet her preference for writing and recording in solitude imbues each one with an introspective quality.
She’s ready for a change in pop music, and there’s no better indicator that a songwriter has found her voice than the ability to explore new styles and still sound like the same artist. Just a few years into her adult life, and only one album into her recording career, Melina Duterte has swept past a milestone many musicians never even get in their sights.