Song of the Day: San Fermin – Crueler Kind

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song is featured during the 2014 Spring Fundraising Drive. Your continuing support makes it possible for us to share with you “Crueler Kind” by San Fermin from the 2013 album San Fermin on Downtown Records.

San Fermin – Crueler Kind (MP3)

San Fermin is the name of the annual festival in Pamplona where the running of the bulls takes place. It’s also the name of the musical project of composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, whose work encompasses the more chamber- and avant-based elements of indie pop while retaining distinct jazz and classical influences. Ludwig-Leone is a graduate of Yale University, and for is first post graduation effort, he retreated to Alberta to begin writing. The result of six weeks of writing in solitude, and even more weeks spent gathering contributions from over 20 musicians, Ludwig-Leone’s debut work as San Fermin was released in the fall of last year. During his studies, Ludwig-Leone spent time working with Nico Muhly, whose work in indie rock circles has been quite influential as of late, and, appropriately, Ludwig-Leone’s main takeaway from that experience seems to be how to compose with a rock band in mind.

San Fermin often feels like an indie rock album that was meticulously crafted, as opposed to something that was formed by the usual rock methods of jamming or building on solo demos, but it never feels contrived or stiff. Ludwig-Leone’s arrangements are vibrant and often unpredictable in a Longstreth-esque manner, and they’re brought to life by a trio of capable singers: baritone Allen Tate and KEXP faves Lucius’ Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. (Live, Ludwig-Leone is joined by Tate and six other players, including two horn players, a violinist, and vocalist Rae Cassidy taking over both Wolfe’s and Laessig’s parts.) “I wouldn’t worry/I’m not about to fall in love again” is what Wolfe and Laessig state before erupting into the “Temecula Sunrise“-style chorus of “Crueler Kind”, a vibrant track that comes early the romantic narrative of San Fermin. Backing the vocal duo is an equally as colorful horn arrangement and loose, backbeat-riding drums that weave in and out of the song smoothly. Not unlike a more accessible version of Bitte Orca-era Dirty Projectors, “Crueler Kind” is an interesting beast: one that reformats familiar indie rock elements into something less intuitive but ultimately more fascinating.

San Fermin was scheduled to perform on KEXP last fall, but a theft of their gear in Portland delayed their visit until this Sunday, March 2nd. Listen to them LIVE on KEXP at 2PM and then catch them at the Columbia City Theater that night. Get tickets and more info on that 21+ show here, keep up with Ludwig-Leone on his Facebook and website, and watch the band play the album’s first single, “Sonsick”, live below.

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