Everybody Works, the 2017 debut album from Jay Som (a.k.a. singer-songwriter Melina Mae Duterte) was “bedroom-pop” that made her own private world seem like a expansive biosphere, fusing influences from Ariel Pink-style L.A. chillwave to Carly Rae Jepsen-aware Eighties-loving bubblegum, confessional indie-rock to yacht-y Eighties R&B. The songs were immediately catchy, though they often unfurled their mysteries in the slow deliberate logic of a dream being realized or a vague impulse coming into bright focus. “Take time to figure it out,” she sang on the glistening mass-transit reverie “The Bus Song.” If you did take the time, it the impact was revelatory.
Duterte has been busy since then, releasing fine songs like the chunky guitar banger “Pirouette” and a collaborative EP with singer-songwriter Justus Proffit. On August 23, she’ll release Anak Ko, her second LP. She’s just released a single from the album “Superbike,” and it’s one of her prettiest tunes yet. She’s always been great with subtle historical re-imaginings (Everybody Works’ “One More Time, Please” asked the musical question ‘what if Rickie Lee Jones was heavily influenced by Japanese Breakfast?’). Here you get an alternative world picture in which Liz Phair grew up in some drab English council estate during the mid-Eighties, got her universe rewired by the Smiths, recorded a killer album for Cherry Red records in 1989 and did a short US tour opening for the Wedding Present. (Duterte says she wrote it aiming for a combination of “Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette.”)
In other words, it’s shoegazing bliss: ethereal, greyday guitar churn, languidly swirling drum taps and sweetly worried vocals that just barely flutter above the music. “I’m not the kind of fool who needs to read the rules,” she sings. That’s right. She makes them up herself.