L T Balkin – 7 Years Too Late – Album Review
Rumor has it this Aussie used to be a significant force in the Punk scene back in the day.
That being said, if you tuned into the most recent episode of the SBS Podcast, you would have heard something entirely different from artist/producer/DJ L T Balkin in a collaboration called “Higher Ground” featuring Charlotte Lock, which incidentally, also happens to be the first cut that starts up this shiny new Electro-based record called 7 Years Too Late as well. Let’s face facts – it’s an excellent first impression – there’s a reason it’s right up front of this entire set-list; it’s instantly enticing and has you wondering about what else might follow right off the drop – aka, the kind of gateway in you wanna have at track #1. Personally, I dig the weight you can feel here – to me, it’s a track like “Higher Ground” that informs my ears I’m in for a substantial experience, and likely one that’s going to offer depth & dimension that expands far beyond the borders of where the genre typically dares to reach out to. Lock will appear throughout this album at various points, and much like L T in terms of professionalism, you’ll never find her anywhere other than right in the spot you wanna find her – Charlotte’s all-pro, all-day, and knows exactly how to deliver, which she will, time & time again, with every opportunity that comes up. Balkin does an exceptional job of inviting us in without giving everything away all at once – “Higher Ground” works with a soulful serenity & deep rooted emotion…whereas the next track is straight in your face.
“Ice” ain’t no joke – buckle UP, because things are about to change quickly. “I smoke it, shoot it, snort it, parachute it” – I mean, this track is about as unapologetic and straightforward as you’re ever gonna find one to be, stopping just shy of spelling it out directly for those out there that don’t know what “Ice” is referring to. I’ll let you all Google that up if you’re not familiar…that ain’t my job here…but rest assured, you’re rarely going to hear a song deal this boldly from the counterculture perspective as you’ll hear in this cut featuring Teddygramz & M$ DOM. While there is zero doubt about the entertainment factor here – and if the drug culture interest you at all like it does with the guy on this side of the screen, chances are you’re gonna love how savage & direct this track seriously IS – just keep in mind, this ain’t music for your grandma yo. Yaaaa I get it, that’s a cute line for a reviewer to write – but it’s another factor to consider in that it’s a genuine rarity inside of this lineup, and literally does change the course of how this album as a whole will be received by the masses. Were it not for the inclusion of “Ice,” 7 Years Too Late has that many more options for how it can be put out there into the world – but with it, the scope narrows – and that’s always something to consider carefully. Personally, I’m not opposed to it whatsoever…I just acknowledge what’s real and “Ice” does make a severe impact on this lineup one way or the other…given that this is L T’s debut & all, these are the kinds of things to think about in the future to follow. To me, “Ice” slays hard with no fucks given & I more than appreciate that – I’m all about conviction, commitment, & belief in the material…as I’ve said in the past, if you’ve got that, like these guys do, I don’t care if you’re rappin’ about a poodle or a Porsche. This cut is all commitment, all day; it’s hard AF and likely gonna be one of the most controversial tracks you’ll hear on any record this year – but like we all say, if the people are talking, that’s good. Polarizing is good; it’s indifference that sucks.
Charlotte Lock reappears for her second appearance of four on this record, and the first of two times that “Lucid Dream Take Me Away” will show up in the lineup of 7 Years Too Late. An expertly designed cut that slow-burns brilliantly with a powerful shroud of melancholy that keeps the beauty of this track in-check, L T is workin’ with spectacularly sensory vibes here, and Lock is clearly feelin’em. Safe to say they’ve likely eyed this up as a potential single to put out there as well with it being featured twice in a ten-song lineup – and ultimately I can’t say I blame them at all…there’s a single-worthiness to this track that you’ll find appears in both versions in its own unique way. There’s a very clever cinematic & fluid flow through this tune that really has a subtle-but-epic & enchanting sound that sticks right to the core of your soul. Lock does an outstanding job once again, and L T is right on the money when it comes to the mix of aura and atmosphere he’s combined into the delicate intensity of this all-out gem of a cut.
All this good stuff being said, I think the most single-worthy hook you’ll actually find in the first half of the record is revealed where you might not even expect it, on “I Think About You” featuring Brandon Nitta. A highlight example of how one really amazing moment can take control of how you feel about an entire song as a whole, the chorus of “I Think About You” is exceptional in every conceivable way. Then you go back, and you listen, and you’re like…okay…the verses are solid…but…they don’t quite have…THAT…whatever intangible X-factor magic you wanna call happening in the chorus right here. And then you go back and you listen again…and you realize that without the sleepiness of the way the verses work and the sincerity you’ll find there, that the punch & power of emotion in the chorus just wouldn’t have had the same effect without it! Catch-22 or what y’all? Nah – it’s quality songwriting. It might move more slowly and cautiously than the rest of the cuts on 7 Years Too Late by comparison perhaps, but I’d be completely willing to bet the people out there listening latch onto this track hard. The emotion is gripping when it comes right down to it – L T’s got a stellar cut designed with atmospheric texture & true depth, and Brandon Nitta makes every moment of its structure become a powerful strength, no matter how subtle “I Think About You” may appear to be. In terms of memorable moments, you’ll be recalling the chorus of this track for days on end with even one spin – and if that doesn’t tell ya that you’ve locked into something special, then I’m not quite sure what else really could.
What a beginning to “Free Your Mind!” That’s a stunning opening to be proud of right there is what that is. Charlotte leads the way once again, alongside a powerfully atmospheric mix of melodic hooks and jaw-dropping bars that make this cut another undeniable highlight in the middle of what’s already been a magnificently impressive set so far. I have multiple cuts that strongly compete for my absolute favorite on this album – which is seriously nice to be this spoiled for choice y’all – but I did feel like I kept coming back to “Free Your Mind” as the album’s real centerpiece and track most likely to make the most memorable impact on the hearts & minds listening out there. Subject-wise…in terms of cohesion…L T’s gotta keep in mind of how we’d all be hearing this without knowing all the details of the full backstory behind everything in the lineup in context – we’re talking about a song that’s just about as far of a 180 degree turn from something that has themes like “Ice” had only three tracks earlier on, you dig? Like I mentioned back then…it’s asking a lot of the everyday listener to get from there to here without at least raising an eyebrow or two in question – but for a grey-bearded grizzled listening vet like myself, no prob. “Free Your Mind” delivers on every aspect of its intentions and hits the mark bang on, providing a vibe that’s empowered, uplifting, and refreshing – all while helping us get to know the man behind the music unlike any other cut on the record will. L T is at the height of his game here, Charlotte is graceful and beautifully melodic, and all-around, you can FEEL that “Free Your Mind” means something special to everyone involved as they play & perform. There are a couple of real statement cuts on this record – this is definitely one of’em – the potential accessibility in this song reaches right around the globe & all the way back…it’s relevant to L T’s own personal story, and loaded with relatable lyricism you’ll love too. Props to the man behind the music – he’s not only shown his own spectacular ideas and talent, but he’s also introduced us to a remarkable list of all-stars from the independent scene as well on this album.
I think you really gotta admire the extra character & personality that this record comes with inherently as a result of its featured guests & A-list talent found in the lineup. Eric Castiglia sounds awesome on the mic during “Dream And Fantasy” – which also features Hi5 in the mix alongside L T as well. Charisma & energy lead the way to victory and compelling, inspired vibes from the music to the microphone on this cut as 7 Years Too Late surges into its second-half – there’s more spark & electricity in this one track than you’ll find on most records or powering most houses. You’re all in-store for a lineup of personalities that really make the most of their time in their featured appearances & guest-spots throughout this album, there’s zero doubt about that – one single spin and you’ll more than appreciate the several dimensions of depth something like 7 Years Too Late revolves around. Different in sound, but much akin to the assembly of records like you’d find in something like The Crystal Method – and to be fair, a track like “Dream And Fantasy” really isn’t too much of a distant cousin at all – the point is, the flexibility & diversity that is a result of making the right choices of who to appear where, leads to results like you’ve been hearing from start to finish. L T’s the quarterback here – he’s got the core locked-down, and he’s got all the right pieces in front of him…from there, it’s just a matter of making sure the right players go to the right places, and that’s what he’s managed to do perfectly in this whole lineup of songs. Eric is SO INTO singing this song it can’t help but bring a smile to your face – real passion always does that, and your ears can’t mistake it for anything else when they hear it – people will love this cut.
“Force” makes all kinds of a statement, especially in considering its title, which of course, I’m likely over-analyzing to a degree, but it makes perfect sense to me, even without a single word included in the actual song itself. Think of it this way – as I mentioned on the SBS Podcast the other day before spinning a sample of L T Balkin’s music, “Force” is the only cut on this record that contains no additional credits or guest-stars. Coincidence? I think not! L T Balkin proves he’s a “Force” even when left completely on his own – hence the title if you ask me; it’s just a theory – but again, sure seems to fit, wouldn’t ya say? It’s a statement track in my opinion – I’m not necessarily saying it’s the best one on the record – but I felt like this was an important reminder that, L T’s been the complete backbone of this entire album & experience, and having a track that features him solo on his own was a good move to make sure that’s known by all listening. Dude’s got an awesome way of speaking through his music, even when it’s all without words like this cut right here – “Force” still shows he can communicate the mood & the vibe, and that while guest stars are always a great thing to have, which this album clearly proves, lest we forget – they are featured guests that complement the incredible work & efforts of Balkin all-around.
With noticeable but gradual changes taking place as the second version of “Lucid Dream Take Me Away” opens up, once you hit that first minute squarely on the dot, the infusion of energy that drives this Hi5 Remix begins to take over. I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say I think it becomes a better variation on this song…but I do think the added energy & electro infusion seems to make a decisive difference in how it affects the song’s overall accessibility with people listening out there – as in, this would likely be the version you’d wanna go with if you were putting it out in just the one way, but with the advantage of two, L T has got multiple paths towards success with this single-worthy cut. I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I think it’s a great song no matter which way you slice it, I’ll take it in any form that Balkin wants to send it at us – there’s always slight risk in having a song burn out quickly when appearing two times in a short space, but I have confidence that the songwriting of “Lucid Dream Take Me Away” and the performances you find upon it will have no real issues standing the wear & tear of the test of time.
While there’s an argument to be made that tracks like the “Red Rain (Hi5 Remix)” tend to draw on much of what’s been tried, tested & true throughout the EDM genre for years more than any other track you’ll hear on this record, you still have to acknowledge when someone’s flexing skills that far exceed others that might attempt anything remotely similar. In this collaboration, you get exactly that – between the pairing of L T Balkin and Hi5 in the mix, they give you a whole lotta what you love about the vibrant side of EDM and make sure you’ve got something with the juice to keep us fully engaged & listening right to the very end of this record & its final track still to come. Don’t get it twisted – I’m certainly not complaining over here – in terms of professional production and top-notch execution, incredible sound, I mean…they’ve sincerely left us nothing to complain about. I tell Rock bands the exact same thing – sometimes you just wanna JAM – it might not necessarily move the needle forward in your evolution, it might not recreate the wheel or have everyone saying it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with going out and crushing something you’re more than capable of when you end up with bulletproof results in the end, like you’ll hear on “Red Rain (Hi5 Remix).” Just because it might sound a bit easier for the innovative & imaginative abilities of L T Balkin and Hi5 doesn’t take anything away from the fact that assembling a flawless tune is truly rare, in any genre, and should still be recognized as a huge accomplishment and always something to be completely proud of.
“Danger Above (Hi5 Remix)” was a killer cut to go out on, inducing those repeat-worthy vibes that have fueled the energy of a fantastically vast portion of this record and flexing the creativity & innovation we all wanna hear one last time before it’s all over. Excellent texture & tone in this tune, and a wild range of extremes when it comes to how much sound selection is in the mix here; essentially, you’ll find “Danger Above (Hi5 Remix)” can be equally as deadly & mysterious as it can be riotously uplifting & entertaining. It’s quite the ambitious accomplishment on the inside of just 4:21 in length, but the flawless transitions between style & sound that are threaded so seamlessly together here at the end entirely confirm just how much Balkin should continue to follow his wildest instincts. You get a bit more versatility in the selection of sound & style at the end of L T’s 7 Years Too Late – and that’s gonna pay off big time when listeners are thinking about what they’ll wanna listen to next, which is quite likely going to be much more of this based on the strengths of its conclusion. I mean…the repeat button is such an EASY button to push y’all…and you KNOW you wanna after you cross that threshold of the three-minute mark and the party starts on “Danger Above (Hi5 Remix)” and the menace dies down for a brief moment of sweet celebration. 7 Years Too Late, or not perhaps…maybe this is just the right time, right here, right now…maybe this is how things were meant to be for the journey of L T Balkin and the music he makes…and better yet, maybe this is just the beginning of an amazing second-chance at the life he was always meant to lead. He’s certainly got things sounding incredible throughout this lineup of ten tracks – the vast majority of debuts in any genre out there can’t hold a candle to this when it comes to production and the confidence you’ll find in the execution. He’s got a great thing goin’ on…now he’s just gotta keep it that way & keep the momentum surging; and with the talent he has personally & surrounding him as well – his record speaks strongly on behalf of an artist that has found their calling.
Listen to L T Balkin at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1zywr1bB8VN6vDrm4i9QZc
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