San Fermin songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone writes songs that shift seamlessly between joy and dread, panic and euphoria. Since the band’s beginnings in 2013, San Fermin’s ambitious scope has taken them across a variety of genres, attracting an eclectic group of collaborators that reflect LudwigLeone’s own wide-ranging musical background. San Fermin rose to early acclaim on the strength of their self-titled debut, which bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone had initially envisioned as a one-off featuring more than 20 collaborators. NPR hailed the album as “one of the year's most surprising, ambitious, evocative and moving records,” while Pitchfork called breakout single “Sonsick” “deliriously infectious.” Buoyed by the record’s success, Ludwig-Leone put together a full-time band and hit the road, performing everywhere from the Tiny Desk to Lollapalooza and sharing bills with the likes of alt-J, Courtney Barnett, the National, and St. Vincent. In the years to come, the group would go on to release three similarly lauded albums, prompting The New Yorker to celebrate their “knack for simultaneously expressing beauty and crisis,” and Rolling Stone to declare them “masters of highbrow chamber pop.
Written in the topsy-turvy days following two different breakups, San Fermin’s poignant new album, Arms, is a testament to the band’s ability to transform pain and isolation into catharsis and healing. The songs are more minimalist than ever before, stripping away much of the sonic ornamentation the Brooklyn eight-piece has come to be known for in favor of a more raw, direct sound reflective of the album’s candid, plainspoken lyrics. The result is a deeply moving, compassionate collection, one that moves from anger and disappointment to clarity and acceptance as it balances devastation and hope in equal measure.