“Belong” is the third album from indie-rock band San Fermin. Classically trained composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone heads the band with vocals by Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye. The group produces an eclectic mixture of different styles, genres and sounds.
Ludwig-Leone’s musical mastery successfully combines classical elements with folk and indie ones while also flirting with pop undertones. San Fermin’s previous album, “Jackrabbit,” functioned as a narrative album, but “Belong” is a more self-reflected; each track holds an individual meaning.
The album’s introductory track is “Open,” which features a cacophony of orchestral compositions accompanied by Charlene’s haunting vocals. This track not only serves as an opening for the album, but also sets the stage for its the self-reflective nature by inviting the listener to “open your mind/ let me in.”
The album builds up intensity with heavy percussion songs “Bride” and “Oceanica,” which both explore thoughts of mental dissociation and imperfection.
The focus on reflection shifts with the song “Better Company,” where Allen looks at his social circle and how his appearance and social interactions may be inadequate. This song also changes a bit in style, with a softer and less intense instrumental aspect, so the listener can hear Allen clearly.
San Fermin slows things down for a second with the smooth track “Bones.” This is the track that makes you want to grab someone special and slow-dance. Allen’s powerful vocals fuse with Charlene’s to navigate the dangers and risks of falling in love. This soulful calmness leaves as quickly as it came, though, as the album returns to its fast-paced, percussion-based tempo.
The album jumps into the euphoric brass-heavy song “Dead,” which features Charlene’s strongest performance of the album. The song shows a disgust at romantic things such as roses. Charlene “would rather be dead” than fall prey to meaningless romance.
The next track, “Perfume,” expands on this idea and shows a regret for once trying to lure in that kind of romance. These two songs highlight independence.
The album wraps up with songs centered around Allen’s voice and closes with the song “Happiness Will Ruin This Place.” This song is heavily folk-inspired with a strong acoustic guitar sound. The beginning of the song softens as Allen has fallen in love. He recognizes that it will eventually fade, but he cannot help but to fall for it.
By the end of the song, he and his lover recognize that their love, just like everything else in this bitter world, will go extinct. Allen admits that by falling in love, he had “lost his way.” He fell in love, was softened and now is broken.
But the question stands: Is he more broken than he was before, or has this faded love exposed a brokenness he’s had all along?
Although “Belong” is thematically different than San Fermin’s previous albums, this work has all of the mastery expected from this musical powerhouse and enhances what’s expected with subtle experimental sounds and styles.
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