Tender in one breath, relentlessly forceful in the next. Melding his vocal with the fabric of the instrumentation behind him, and still leaving enough space in the mix to define the rhythm with his words. In his first pair of singles as a solo artist, Leo Sawikin is caught having the kind of love affair with music that so many players want to capture in the studio, but so few ever succeed at properly recording. Appropriately (and tellingly) titled “Born Too Late” and “Take What You Want,” these two songs are our first glimpse at a new and improved Leo Sawikin, who is more than ready and willing to show us another side of his highly poetic personality perhaps previously inaccessible to us in other vehicles he’s worked in.
As a soloist, I get the feeling his number one priority is establishing a sound uniquely his own, independent of anything we might have associated with him prior to now – which is admittedly a difficult task given his present reputation in the underground. He nonetheless puts on a masterclass in what it means to take your talents to a new venue, and for my money, issues two of the best new tracks 2021 has heard to date.
“You call me in the night to see me but / You say that you don’t want to need me, oh / I can’t break the seeds you’re sewing” sings Sawikin in several of the more haunting lines featured ahead of the first chorus in “Take What You Want,” and although his voice is coupled with instrumentation, dividing our focus between the melody and the man in front of it is next to impossible. He’s simply too commanding in this mix, and while his vocal style isn’t that different from what I heard him utilize with The Chordaes, he just sounds more relaxed and free to be in his approach here for me to draw many comparisons between this material and his old content. The way both of these songs were arranged exhibits a top-notch compositional wit that doesn’t come naturally to very many artists, and if I were him, I would continue on this present creative trajectory to see this talent exploited for everything it’s worth (the right way).
It might be a little early for me to be saying as much, but I truly do think that “Born Too Late” and “Take What You Want” just might collectively represent the best look we’ve seen from Leo Sawikin so far, mostly because of how authentic in spirit both singles feel. I definitely want to make a point of hearing the full album they were cut from in the near future, simply to find out whether their grandiosity is limited to this release or just the tip of the iceberg. Sawikin is developing a sound and style that could well carry his name out of the underground and into the spotlight of a mainstream stage, and if I were you, I’d give it a peek as soon as possible.
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