REVIEW: Leo Sawkin — Born Too Late (SINGLE)

Simmering to life in a dizzying flood of noise, we discover what will become the opening bars of “Born Too Late,” one of the two debut singles Leo Sawikin is releasing solo. Though initially greeting us with a stony wall of sound, things soon soften for the backbone of “Born Too Late,” just enough for Sawikin to enter the fold with his voice sounding as velvety as ever. He’s in complete control here, straddling the groove with a delicate nature that will become quite domineering sooner than we’re expecting. In this song, we’re meeting a dark, industrial pop sound that doesn’t play by the rules of the modern millennial indie rock construct; it’s all about decadence, even when its excess is stripped of all conventional physicality.

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One of the best parts about “Born Too Late” is its master mix, which places the vocal and instrumental tracks on an even playing field to war for our affections — the victor in this battle, of course, being the listener themselves. There are more than a couple of instances here in which Sawikin sounds like he’s fighting with himself and crudely trying to break out of some aesthetical shell we never knew was separating his true identity from the audience, but once he’s penetrated the barrier, the catharsis that comes pouring through our speakers in a deluge is essentially divine. It’s incredible to hear him repelling himself from any familiarity, and exactly what I wanted to see of his first solo work.

The other single out in support of Sawikin’s newfound creative freedom, “Take What You Want,” is undeniably as stirring as its rhythmic counterpart, but it doesn’t follow the same compositional trail into darkness at all. On the contrary, this track features a groove willfully stuck in a holding pattern, and its only true level element is its lead vocal, ironically conveying a sense of discord any listener is likely to be immediately affected by. The emotionality is off the charts, but make no mistake about it, this isn’t a self-serving exhibition of melodic venting. If setting us up to understand the bipolarity of his poeticisms from the jump was his mission in releasing “Take What You Want” and “Born Too Late” together, I think Sawikin absolutely hit the mark and then some.

I had high hopes for these two tracks upon hearing that their creator was breaking away from The Chordaes to venture off on his own, and much to my pleasure, they’re harmony-laden home runs. Leo Sawikin is one of the more talented voices in indie rock to have submitted new content to the masses this March, and although I think he’s still got plenty of room to continue growing with the artistry he’s designed so far, it would be silly to say he’s sounding anything but profound in these performances. “Born Too Late” and “Take What You Want” are all about personality, and if you appreciate depth in pop/rock, you’re going to be swept off of your feet by this music.

Colin Jordan