SAN FERMIN | 

Ann Arbor

January 28, 2018

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San Fermin’s third studio album, Belong, marks a shift in songwriting perspective for bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone. “In the past I’d usually write through characters from books or movies, as away to try to distance myself from what I was writing about,” says the Brooklyn-based artist. “As I’ve become more confident as a songwriter, I decided that I could drop some of the artifice and write something more direct.” In bringing a more personal slant to his music, Ludwig-Leone found himself confronting such matters as disconnection, displacement, and—perhaps most significantly—everyday anxiety. “Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid, but on this album I talked about it more explicitly than I ever had before,” he points out. 

 

Produced by Ludwig-Leone and brought to life by his fellow performers—lead vocalists Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate, trumpet player John Brandon, saxophonist Stephen Chen, violinist Claire Wellin, drummer Michael Hanf, and guitarists Tyler McDiarmid and Aki Ishiguro—Belong unfolds in warm, intoxicating textures that both contrast and intensify that sense of unrest. The album’s hypnotic sound is embodied in tracks like “No Promises,”  a shimmering pop opus about the fear of disappointing those who’ve placed their trust in you. On the quietly frenetic “Bride,” San Fermin conveys a fear of commitment by juxtaposing the idyllic imagery of wedding flowers with a detailed account of suffering a panic attack. And with “Dead” (a song about “not wanting anybody to depend on you,” according to Ludwig-Leone), the band telegraphs defiance in a gorgeously jagged arrangement built on clattering rhythms and Kaye’s penetrating vocal performance.

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