Jay Som is the stage moniker of San Francisco indie rocker Melina Duterte. She’s been making records as Jay Som since 2012 while simultaneously playing in a band called Summer Peaks. She’s released a few records along the way, but from what I’ve read, the single that just came out last week is her first “official” release.
I don’t really know anything about Duterte, and I had never heard of Jay Som until last night. I went to Durham to see Mitski and Japanese Breakfast, and I knew that there was an opening act called Jay Som, but I didn’t do any homework at all. Although Jay Som features a full band on the records, and although they usually tour as a band, It was just Duterte flying solo last night. The version of tonight’s song that I heard last night was quite different. It was grittier and more intimate, and I loved it. It was the highlight of her short set. When I heard the 7″ version, I wasn’t even sure if it was the same song. This is that song:
“I Think You’re Alright” by Jay Som
There’s something that I love about how this one starts cleaner and brighter than the live version, but builds to a much bigger and much darker climax than the live version. Last night, between the Jay Som set and Japanese Breakfast, I overheard a guy talking about how Jay Som reminded him of Azure Ray, and I can totally get that. What’s weird is that Duterte doesn’t sound much like either Maria Taylor or Orenda Fink, but she sounds very much like when Taylor and Fink harmonize. And that vocal harmony is why we love Azure Ray.
Most of what I’ve heard, and most of this song is indeed reminiscent of Azure Ray, but at 2:41, it gets all fuzzy and loud and heavy on the distortion pedals. There’s a whole lot going on there, and that was impossible to replicate on stage last night with one woman playing one guitar and using an uncomplicated pedal board. I liked the live version a lot, and I love the 7″ version for different reasons.
I’ve read that this is a song about giving your all to someone. I’ve read that it’s about being really deep in a one-sided relationship. And that it’s about sort of being okay with that, or at least giving in to that. Sure there are lines like “I’ll be your broken old TV… Your puppy when nobody’s home”, but the one that makes it a little weird is “I’ll be your cigarette ashtray”. Those three things are quite different. The broken old TV is that thing you don’t care about, but can’t bring yourself to throw away. The puppy when nobody’s home does bad things, and you get mad at it, but you love it anyway. The cigarette ashtray? That thing that you don’t care about at all. Use it, dirty it up, treat it like it’s a garbage can. And the protagonist here is willing to be that.
No matter what, it’s a great song, and it was a treat to see it performed in a much different style. The Mitski/Japanese Breakfast/Jay Som tour is in Atlanta tomorrow, then Birmingham Alabama, then through the Southwest and up the US west coast, Denver, and all through the Great Lakes. You should see this show if it comes through your town.