It’s rare for an artist’s debut album to so confidently push the limits of its self-assigned genre. But in 2017, Jay Som, the Oakland-based alt-rock artist, released her critically acclaimed Everybody Works. Heralded for one of the best albums to come out of last year, Jay Som has made a name for herself in the indie lo-fi community.
This month, she put out “Pirouette” and “O.K., Meet Me Underwater,” two previously unreleased tracks that were recorded back in 2016 during the making of Everybody Works. They are available as a bright yellow 7-inch under the name Pirouette. Melina Duterte, the woman behind Jay Som, wrote the song in the same vein of her latest album, but she “felt (the tracks were) out of place on the track list during the finalization of the album.” Luckily for her listeners, the two songs came right before the launch of her 2018 tour.
Although they were excluded from the original release of the album, the two songs lay nicely within the context of Everybody Works. Both possess sweet, uplifting instrumentals that wrap snugly around their unexpectedly melancholy lyrics.
“Pirouette,” released earlier in January, comes in with a bright guitar riff. Although the melody becomes campy at times — it’s a quirky beat that evokes déjà vu from a slew of other alt-rock songs — the introspective nature of Duterte’s lyrics provide a welcomed depth to the song. In the chorus, her voice slowly builds from a gentle mumble to a hushed — yet strong — falsetto as she pleads “for answers beneath the moon.”
The slightly more pessimistic “O.K., Meet Me Under Water” creates a cool contrast for “Pirouette.” Although the song’s lyrics consist mostly of Duterte’s breathy repetitions of the chorus, the strength in this piece comes from the way she builds her backing instrumentals. As she pulls the listener underneath her drawn-out bass line, it’s undeniable that this gentle mastery of lo-fi transformed Jay Som into one of the alt scene’s most unique figures.
Between the moon and the water, the multitalented Jay Som reappeared to start the year with this small but strong release.