Single Review: San Fermin – Asleep on the Train

By on Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 12:00 pm

Brooklyn art-pop collective San Fermin released their third studio album ‘Belong’ back in April, just after their appearance in Austin for SXSW 2017. A mere 6 months later, the group are in the middle of a North American tour supporting the album, and they’ve marked the occasion by releasing a new stand-alone single called ‘Asleep on the Train’. Bandleader and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone describes the song as “a b-side that I’ve always liked, but [that] didn’t fit on the record”. He elaborates, “The lyrics [to ‘Asleep on the Train’] are inspired by late nights on the subway, all flickering fluorescent lights and post-party depression.”

In terms of the sonic realisation of that experience, San Fermin have hit the figurative nail squarely on the head, starting with the harsh industrial opening sounds of the track, then easing into a smoother, almost hypnotically jazz-tinged and quintessentially New York kind of sound. Soothing strings and muted brass underscore precisely tuned vocal harmonies between singers Allen Tate and Charlene Kaye, but Ludwig-Leone’s murky verse lyrics are punctuated by brief interludes of sharp instrumental tones and disjointed vocal effects. The song’s chorus melody “lost and blue, you fell asleep on the train again / and you woke up by the bay / oh, I know it’s hard to get around sometimes / I apologize” is lyrically evocative, but musically even moreso, set to a slightly uneven rhythm that is strangely and singularly reminiscent of a bleary-eyed ride in a mostly empty subway car at the tail end of the train’s service.


ICYMI, we caught San Fermin live at SXSW 2017; you can read about that vivid, broad daylight performance right here. San Fermin’s new single ‘Asleep on the Train’ and their full LP ‘Belong’ are both out now on Downtown / Interscope Records. Details on the band’s upcoming live performances can be found on their official Facebook. TGTF’s full past coverage of San Fermin is collected back here.

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