Jay Som's Enthralling Guitar Noise

A Bay Area rock jam with a remorseful undercurrent

I could never quite play a guitar solo. I'd look up guitar tabs for songs I liked and try them in earnest, but my fingers lacked the dexterity to hold up the other end of the bargain. So I left behind the coolest part of playing the instrument, strumming seventh chords and inventing vaguely jangly go-nowhere riffs instead. Most days, I'm fine with this compromise, but I've been regretting it more than ever in recent weeks thanks to Jay Som's "I Think You're Alright." The latest single from the San Francisco indie-rock act, led by singer-songwriter Melina Duterte, builds up to a solo that languishes instead of soars. Its distorted crunch is the perfect accent for a song that's all about second-guessing romantic choices, and it won't stop running through my head.

Late last year, Duterte released Turn Into, a collection of songs and half-songs that jumped loosely around the spectrum of indie rock. “I Think You’re Alright," by contrast, digs into a fairly tight-knit, dark place. It starts with barely a whisper: "When I wake up in the morning / I’ll make you some some coffee," Duterte sings. She goes on to describe a draining kind of relationship, one where every moment of domesticity or social life is a source of angst (“Take you to the party / We'll drink until our brains black out"). When the guitar solo ends, there's no sense of relief — the song just collapses back into old ways and bad habits, leaving no choice but to hit play and hear it one more time.

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