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Jay Som’s “Anak Ko” – Album Review

Returning from her 2017 album, Everybody Works, Jay Som expresses the familiar feeling of returning home from afar in her release of Anak Ko.  The new album’s namesake translates to “my child” in Tagalog, an endearing term used between Filipino loved ones.  This translation transcends into the musical and lyrical composition of this album with themes of calming–almost nourishing–vocals and instrumentation.  The album itself is a family of intimacies, exploring a sense of return and change of self after a long journey.

The first song, “If You Want It,” starts off the album with a low bassline, spiraling into lyrics of longing affection and remembrance.  Jay Som addresses the one she loved, writhing in the pain of her absence in the other’s life and her replacement in turn. Despite the subject matter, the track is rather calm until the bassline spirals into keyboard madness in a style that one can find in the progressions of many classical composers.  

Prior to the release of the full album, Jay Som released singles “Tenderness” and “Superbike.”  “Tenderness” begins with a beat emerging from a seamless sense of density, rising to the surface to introduce her thoughts on the soft heart in a repetition (almost seeming like a motto).  “Superbike” carries endless cyclic guitar loops, soaked in lyrics of leaving a former lover for new roads and destinations. Both singles, in their repetitive sense, seem to become a manifesto within themselves, heightening their sense of intimacy in flux with maturity.  They emulate the active role of memory and emotional perception in the wake of the activity of the present.

Other songs in Anak Ko, despite the veil of calm reflection and maturity that weaves itself through the entire album, display a sense of urgency and tension.  “Devotion” is a song in which a dramatic change is about to take place with caution and weight. As Jay Som sings of the devotion in which she enveloped her life in, the song spirals into a tunnel vision of manifesting the force of change in the face of longstanding loyalty.  “Nighttime Drive” transitions from its calm to a swelling of maracas and strings that resemble the resolution of a coming-of-age movie. “Anak Ko,” the album’s namesake, starts slow but descends into different phases of anxious guitar warpings. The song ends with Jay Som’s voice swallowed up in the intricate composition of tension and relief, corresponding to lyrics of grasping for her personality under the limelight.  These songs of instrumental stress are cathartic, exposing the influence of histories of one’s own self winding into the face of the present.

The album seems as if we are following Jay Som down a road of maturity with remembrance of the pain and joy.  The music itself is heavily instrumental, with sparse lyrics to tell anecdotes of their histories. Themed with repetitive guitar and bass loops and delicate embellishments of maracas and electronic distortions, Jay Som has displayed her shift in modality.  Surely, in Anak Ko, Jay Som has changed drastically from the dreamy aura of Turn Into and Everybody Works, taking on an active role in her own self-realization of personal history in this anthology of memories of the past with vulnerability.

Recommended Songs: “Devotion,” “Tenderness,” “Anak Ko”

Reviewed By: Elizabeth Leung