What do pop and classical music have in common? More than you might think, actually. In the centuries before amplification and distortion were the norm, plain wooden instruments were the stars of the stage. Before a solo artist or band of four ever earned a top twenty spot, orchestras and pianists held the spotlight. If it’s hard to imagine modern fans going wild over classical music, remember that it was less than two centuries ago that they were doing just that. Times and tastes change, of course, but Lisztomania is notable for its occurrence before celebrity fandom and fanaticism existed as we know them.
San Fermin, a baroque pop band from Brooklyn, are proving that classical music can definitely shine through in today’s pop music. Their genre combines the familiar stylistic elements of pop and rock music with the instrumental variety of baroque and classical music. Numerous bands, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Death Cab for Cutie, and Tori Amos have been classified as baroque pop over the years. But San Fermin are a particularly good example; featuring eight members and sounds ranging from brass and strings to guitars and electronica, SF are something of a contemporary orchestra.
After forming in 2011, San Fermin began rising to national acclaim. Their first album came out in 2013 and was well-received. Jackrabbit, their second album, was released this spring to a chorus of praise from NPR and Rolling Stone. Little other music is quite like it. Perhaps the National are a close comparison, with female vocals added. Like Broken Social Scene, the songs are varied in style and feature multiple different singers.
Although San Fermin’s music is entirely good and worth listening to in its own right, it’s important to note how their efforts are advancing baroque pop. In their four short years as a band, they have been elevating a creative and diverse modus operandi that is inclusive and experimental without alienating the widest segments of the listening public. Bands like these are playing an important role in shifting public tastes towards a broader, more evolved set of sounds. For that, San Fermin and baroque pop deserve admiration.