If you’ve ever wondered what The National’s Matt Berninger would sound like singing for Of Monsters and Men, allow me to direct you to the blistering haze of dark, orchestral ornamentation that is San Fermin’s sophomore LP, Jackrabbit.
Dazzling with avant-garde instrumentals and eerie vocalizations on his second album, singer/songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone and his rag-tag ensemble lead us down the rabbit-hole and into an unsettlingly vibrant fantasia. While Ludwig-Leone’s masterful pen strokes cover the backdrop and script, his seven band mates provide Jackrabbit a cast of characters that wrest from our guarded hearts an implausible level of intimacy. What begins in, “The Woods,” as a strummed drawl of gentle guitars, unwittingly becomes a grandiose cycle of escalation-regression between a harsh discordant of crescendos and scattered folk ambiance.
The dichotomy alone by the shared lead vocal positions of Allen Tate’s baritone rumblings and Charlene Kaye’s angelic intonations breathes life into Ludwig-Leone’s already ardent lyricism. On, “The Astronaut,” Kaye’s euphonious howls trail Tate’s dusty murmurs; while in the buoyant melody of, “Emily,” the duo’s harmonization trickle a delicate sense of languish and loneliness.
In songs like, “Ladies Mary,” and the insatiably catchy, “Philosopher,” grumbling brass from Josh Brandon’s horns and Michael Hanf’s moody percussion accompany Kaye’s soaring clarion vocals. Then there are songs like, “Parasites,” which challenge every notion of pop and folk that exists–the finale of which is an exceptional climax that sees Rebekah Durham’s flittering violin caressing Kaye’s ethereal harmonies.
“It’s overwhelming sometimes/When you’re all alone/And you can’t tell if you’re floating or falling out of place/Like the astronaut calls a little dot a home/Like he can tell from outer space,” Tate sings on, “Two Scenes,” as a symphony of hallowed vocals crumbles into an orgiastic eruption of strings and drums.
As climax, “Billy Bibbit,” (an allusion to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) harnesses the heated rapport built thus far; the earnestly hopeful hum of Tate and Kaye’s hopeful croons scratching the edges of what it means to know that love won’t conquer all.
“Billy, we’re all gonna die/So I wouldn’t try to force it/You’re living in your mind/You have to get out of your mind,” Kaye’s icy vocals puncture deep, and when Tate offers his resounding baritone in reply, it nearly breaks our hearts: “Billy, this is your moment/You’re living in your mind/You have to get our of your mind.”
Jackrabbit‘s complex negotiations in composition swirl around its pool of pensive dirges and wistful soliloquies–birthing a level of experimentalism that equals the colossal scope of Funeral-era Arcade Fire and the lyrical/melodic competence of Florence + the Machine.
Every second of the album’s forty-two minute rush is an undoubtedly gorgeous illustration of aggressive, in-your-face baroque pop antics. Ludwig-Leone and company ooze, scream, and claw unfiltered passion into their haunting melodies, while their lyricism capture the ravishing stories of their broken actors. San Fermin’s eight-man rapture of emotion resolve to sweat and bleed themselves dry in an attempt to the answers to their tragedies–only to discover that like their frenzied, unpolished songs; life seldom offers a clean catharsis.