Jay Som’s had quite the eventful year. The brainchild of Oakland-based multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte, the project signed to Polyvinyl late last year, and has since released two full-lengths on the iconic indie rock/emo label. December’s Turn Into was just a glorified reissue of demos Duterte had released a year prior, but with the label’s added publicity boost, it set up her more official debut to make a splash when it arrived in March. Everybody Works is a beautiful-sounding, charming, intensely personal record, full of hi-fi guitar tones and hushed vocal performances that redefine how “bedroom pop” can sound.
Among the album’s slowcore and shoegaze-influenced tunes is its poppiest, most earwormy track, “The Bus Song.” On it, Duterte describes why she likes riding public transit, scoffing at those who think the bus smells weird, and enjoying the anonymity that comes along with sitting alongside a plethora of other riders. Initially a solo acoustic strummer, the song explodes into a joyous hook that piles on horns, keyboards, and chiming guitars, the trajectory matching the Duterte’s journey from lonely traveler to member of a diverse bus community.
The song’s new video, directed by Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, piles on yet another layer that drives home the song’s point. In it, Duterte assembles a ragtag group of bandmates and friends, making sure everyone has an instrument, and parades around town with them. Everyone’s colorfully-clad and cheerful, almost to the point of Wes Anderson-style tweeniness at times. If you missed the themes of unity and community participation that came through in Duterte’s lyrics and instrumentation, they’re impossible to ignore with the added visual element.
The bottom line is: Jay Som’s one of the best indie bands to emerge onto a national stage in the past year, and Everybody Works is well worth your time.