Pairs Well With…The National, The Dirty Projectors, Sufjan Stevens
When checking out San Fermin, be sure to dig beyond a single or two, as chief songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone reveals himself like a slow peel, a skilled composer in a range of emotional genres. In fact, my first though upon hearing lead single “Sonsick” was how much it sounded like Lucius (spoiler alert: it’s Lucius), a couple of the twenty-two musicians that make up San Fermin’s wildly ambitious debut. It’s a remarkable effort, equaled in execution as intent. Ludwig-Leone employs a third primary vocalist as part of San Fermin’s conversation - Allen Tate carries a rich baritone that sounds on the verge of tears at times, somehow matching the emotive power of San Fermin’s pastoral and ethereal landscapes. I know we all have a lot of bands to listen to, but a complete run of San Fermin’s debut is now required listening for all OEB devotees. It’s a perfect record and is an easy must-see at SXSW 2014.
The combination of San Fermin and Sam Smith make this one of the most powerful sets of our coverage this year. Stunning stuff. Highlights:
San Fermin (10) - In fact, my first though upon hearing lead single “Sonsick” was how much it sounded like Lucius (spoiler alert: it’s Lucius), a couple of the twenty-two musicians that make up San Fermin’s wildly ambitious debut. It’s a remarkable effort, equaled in execution as intent.
Sam Smith (9) - Smith is a soul singer, but smartly employs a mix of pop and experimental electronic beats to croon instead of guitars and horns. For an anticipated mainstream debut, Smith is willing to get pretty weird and these moments are what stand out more than accessible grooves like “Nirvana”.
Ryan Montbleau (8) - Whether solo or with a new rotation of musicians this year, Montbleau impresses with his heart-to-heart songwriting and an inherent likeability, just to turn it on a minute later with barn-burning improv.
The Saint Johns (6) – Nashville duo The Saint Johns seem to be following in the footsteps of The Civil Wars on their debut EP Open Water, mixing two voices seamlessly over a folk/country backing. The Saint Johns aim for a little more pop country than deep roots, primed for the folk rock crowd.
Ryley Walker (5) – For a folk artist, Ryley Walker deals in some really complex melodies and structures, taking as much from jazz traditions as the woodsmen clan. There’s definitely some instrumental prowess going on here, so Walker is a good grab for anyone looking for visual, acoustic mastery.
Seahaven (5) – Alt rock band Seahaven presents a wide range throughout their catalog, accurately reflected in their recent singles leading to their next LP. “Flesh” has a powerful, modern rock drive while the melancholy “Silhouette (Latin Skin)” sounds like a different band entirely. It’s actually a stunning song that came completely out of left field.