Brooklyn outfit San Fermin are back with their most anticipated record yet. ‘Belong’ is the follow up to ‘Jackrabbit’, which saw project mastermind Ellis Ludwig-Leone introduce bolder and brighter takes on the fractured chamber pop that shines on the band’s self-titled debut. Now, two albums on from when breakout cut ‘Sonsick’ made comparisons to Dirty Projectors inevitable, these similarities have all but evaporated, with a noticeable swapping of art-rock eccentricities for larger-than-life anthems.
Singing duties are again split between Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate, with Kaye spearheading proceedings on ‘Open’ and ‘Bride’, both of which are emblazoned with spliced samples and horn bursts before erupting into densely-layered sonic colour. Tate responds by laying down fertile ground for remixes on the hi-fi club bump of ‘Better Company’, while the glossy finish applied to ‘No Promises’ wouldn’t find itself out of place on a Fifa soundtrack.
The title-track and the warped R&B of ‘Bones’ provide a calming reprieve from the frenzied sequence that heavily frontloads the album, as well as a great teaser for ‘Dead’, an obvious standout where queasy pandemonium ignites Kaye’s barking vocals around a clunking chorus and gnarled string section.
It’s the last gripping moment before ‘Belong’ trails off sharply — ‘Perfume’ is anonymous and the sanitised folk on ‘Cairo’ is a major faceplant, with a square-pegged refrain proving a momentum drain and the predictably stripped-down closing number ‘Happiness Will Ruin This Place’ doing little to recover the mood, let alone live up to its profound title.
Across his latest record’s nearly 50-minute runtime, Ludwig-Leone proves himself an apt composer, but rarely is his bursting-at-the-seams instrumentation given the time and space it needs to truly resonate. Booming walls of sound are favoured at the expense of nuance, leaving ‘Belong’ too regularly thirsting for a banner hit, and ultimately, offering a perfect example of why bigger isn’t always better.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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