Noise Pop Presents
859 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA, 94109
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
On her first proper album as Jay Som, Melina Duterte, 22, solidifies her rep as a self-made force of sonic splendor and emotional might. If last year's aptly named Turn Into compilation showcased a fuzz-loving artist in flux -- chronicling her mission to master bedroom recording -- then the rising Oakland star's latest, Everybody Works, is the LP equivalent of mission accomplished.
Duterte is as DIY as ever -- writing, recording, playing, and producing every sound beyond a few backing vocals -- but she takes us places we never could have imagined, wedding lo-fi rock to hi-fi home orchestration, and weaving evocative autobiographical poetry into energetic punk, electrified folk, and dreamy alt-funk.
And while Duterte's early stuff found her bucking against life's lows, Everybody Works is about turning that angst into fuel for forging ahead. "Last time I was angry at the world," she says. "This is a note to myself: everybody's trying their best on their own set of problems and goals. We're all working for something."
Everybody Works was made in three furious, caffeinated weeks in October. She came home from the road, moved into a new apartment, set up her bedroom studio (with room for a bed this time) and dove in. Duterte even ditched most of her demos, writing half the LP on the spot and making lushly composed pieces like "Lipstick Stains" all the more impressive. While the guitar-grinding Jay Som we first fell in love with still reigns on shoegazey shredders like "1 Billion Dogs" and in the melodic distortions of "Take It," we also get the sublimely spacious synth-pop beauty of "Remain," and the luxe, proggy funk of "One More Time, Please."
Duterte's production approach was inspired by the complexity of Tame Impala, the simplicity of Yo La Tengo, and the messiness of Pixies. "Also, I was listening to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen to be quite honest," she says. "Her E•MO•TION album actually inspired a lot of the sounds on Everybody Works."
There's story in the sounds -- even in the fact that Duterte's voice is more present than before. As for the lyrics, our host leaves the meaning to us. So if we can interpret, there's a bit about the aspirational and fleeting nature of love in the opener, and the oddity of turning your art into job on the titular track. There's even one tune, "The Bus Song," that seems to be written as a dialog between two kids, although it plays like vintage Broken Social Scene and likely has more to do with yearning for things out of reach.
While there's no obvious politics here, Duterte says witnessing the challenges facing women, people of color, and the queer community lit a fire. And when you reach the end of Everybody Works, "For Light," you'll find a mantra suitable for anyone trying, as Duterte says, "to find your peace even it it's not perfect." As her trusty trumpet blows, she sings: "I'll be right on time, open blinds for light, won't forget to climb."
Ellen Kempner, the 21-year-old guitarist and songwriter behind Boston based project, Palehound, is even more prodigious than her age suggests; influenced by her musician father, she struck out on the songwriting path while she was still in elementary school. "I was kind of a shy kid," says Kempner. "Music was a good way for me to express myself – I had a hard time socially, and it was a way for me to feel like I could contribute something and impress people in some way."
"I envy 10-year-old me," she laughs. "I would sit in my room for an hour, write a song, and be done. Now, it takes more time." The eight songs that make up Dry Food, which Kempner wrote from 2013 to 2014 and recorded with Gabe Wax (Wye Oak, Speedy Ortiz) last summer, are wry and confessional, full of unexpected twists and turns. Kempner's whispery alto gives the album a raw, confessional feel, even on louder tracks like the crashing, reverb-augmented "Cushioned Caging." That's partially because Dry Food is a snapshot of a time in Kempner's life defined by instability and shifting, leaving Sarah Lawrence before her eventual move to Boston.
"I was coming off a transitional time in my life," says Kempner of the period when Dry Food was written. "I was struggling in college, and with mental health issues. The album is a snapshot of a weird time for me, where I was transitioning from being in college to getting a job.
"The year between 19 and 20 is this weirdly insignificant time – you're kind of an adult, but not a real adult. That was kind of hard for me, to think, 'I'm not a kid, and there are things in my life making that very, very obvious to me, but I also can't really fathom being an adult yet.'"
Despite the underlying factors, though, Dry Food is confident and cohesive, full of sophisticated songwriting and guitar playing. Kempner cites Elliott Smith and Kim Deal, as well as Angel Olsen and her childhood musical hero Avril Lavigne, as songwriting influences. ("I was obsessed with Let Go, and I still love that album," she declares. "I was in third grade and would wear ties to school.")
The glistening, complex guitar work on the dreamy "Cinnamon" and the fuzzed-out textures on album opener "Molly" makes plain that Kempner's musical roots grow deep. "Wes Montgomery is one of my biggest guitar influences," she notes. "I studied his music in college, and I still will pull up a chart of his and try to figure it out."
Kempner played everything but the drum parts on Dry Food, but live, Palehound is rounded out by drummer Jesse Weiss, of the gnarly Boston act Grass Is Green, and bassist David Khostinat, who had previously worked with Weiss in the band Supervolcano.
Teaming up with Weiss and his crisp, steady drumming was, for Kempner, serendipitous. "I heard [Grass Is Green] when I was 16 or 17, and I thought they were the best thing I'd ever heard in my life," she says. "Particularly the drummer. I saw them live for the first time right after I'd turned 18, and I watched Jesse the whole time. I worshiped him.
"He has this innate sense of how to work his kit. I can just get onstage and know that he's going to play perfectly, and I can rely on him."
While Dry Food chronicles a particularly rough patch in Kempner's life, it does so with verve and grit, not to mention sterling musicianship and wry lyrics. Dry Food is a flag-plant by a young woman with a lot on her mind and talent to burn.