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JUDO! – EP Review

Max Leonard’s newest project features five separate tracks with distinguishing sounds and themes regarding love, overthinking, melancholy and acceptance.
Noel Castillo
Max Leonard’s manager as well as Founder & Talent Manager of Mad Lettuce Management Matt Ladis personally contacted me and shared early access of JUDO!. Additionally, I received access to the press release and some of Leonard’s own thoughts on his project. “This project was me getting everything off my chest. I had a lot of changes happening in my life all around me. I had just gotten out of a relationship, I was graduating college, everything just kind of flipped for me. There was a time I wasn’t even making music during that time of change. But eventually, I found my way back and let this project be all the expressed feelings I had kept inside,” Leonard said.

JUDO! is a mere 16 minute listen and grows further worth every minute after each listen. Leonard has collaborated with a few of my favorite artists since last summer like Frank Sativa, as well as composing a third of the trio “Biking with Francis” alongside Joshua Raw and Garrett Sparrow. He has also opened for hip-hop artist Shy High before and continues to perform spectacles in different states for others to connect with. 


JET FLUX produces a very rare, chill-relaxing vibe. About halfway through the snare and kick come in and towards the end of the track comes a confession of love. ISOMEANSWAR is a feature on the opening track and has only released one single called “Call the Plug” from February 2. “Call the Plug” is labeled as alternative but utilizes elements of hip-hop in the delivery and flow of lyrics.


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“Tell me, do you hate me now? Do you miss the fun? Wanted to tell you I love you didn’t have the guts, now you the first thing I’m thinking bout when waking up and I’m tired of it, I ain’t signed up for this s***… All the time she’s so pretty but she would look even better with me… I don’t know who she is I just know who she isn’t it was my fault I didn’t get it… so if ignorance is bliss I want to see her…”

COLD SHOULDER opens with: “Baby don’t, you let me go Outside’s colder alone Was it something I said? That made you lose your self control” 

“You met me at my palace, you showed off all your talents, And now you wanna take me home, but you played me, though”

“If you want me baby, say it, ‘cause I could be your favorite, we both know this is how it goes”

“I wish you’d hold me but you’d never notice the little subtle sighs you used to hold me but now you don’t know me”


LOVE SICK! screams heartache and hurt. Leonard chants the phrase “Lovesick! You got me so lovesick!” in between (ironically) heartfelt verses and essentially acts as the hook. “Hey! I’ll pick you up at eight. If you got time to waste, waste it with me (Running back and forth, hit me on your cellular).” This combination of reverberated yearning and simple yet powerful demands goes strong until the final 30 seconds as the yearning begins to fizzle out and transitions to the next track. While probably the most pop-sounding song on the EP, it has pleasant idiosyncratic sounds and breaks to be so much more.


LOVE SICK! Also has a music video on YouTube, released March 20, 2024. Directed, shot and edited by Chris Steelframe, the video displays Leonard wandering around the streets of California with his briefcase as well as singing into his microphone. It has a sort of retro aesthetic being in all black and white and a nice touch of indie appeal. 


YOU N I also contains a feature going by the stage name of Louis Phoenix. Phoenix has released two albums, Delivery Boy and No Signal, dating back to 2023 and 2021 respectively in addition to many singles and EPs which go back to 2020. With a pop/alternative background, the two are a perfect pair for cultivating the energy in track four. “Seems I found myself waiting for you. I still find myself dreaming of you and I,” is the main line repeated throughout the song. However, the slow tempo and spatial frequencies bounce off each other nicely all the way until roughly halfway through the track when the slow tattoo of drum and bass comes into effect. The final 40 seconds give the listener apt time to process and reflect upon the project, what they are hearing and potentially how it all relates to their individual lives. What this song most reminds me of is One Direction’s Midnight Memories album from 2013 and their epiphanies in dark hours. The two are not exactly alike but more so both evoke strong nostalgia for forgotten times.


BALLAD features what I perceive to be a desperate voicemail or recording of a confession for about 30 seconds. It is not until the 1 minute 13 second mark where the first lyrics of the song are actually uttered. The loop repeats with the instrumental and these lyrics until the 2 minute 18 second mark when solely the lyrics are furtively whispered and the majority of background noise fades away. The track is true to its name, acting as a bittersweet send-off to JUDO!

“Yeah you could be something to me

You said you don’t need me anymore”

“So you wanna say goodbye?

Think about you all the time

This feel like a summer day

Come here for some peace of mind

Friends will talk that’s on the side

You could come and kumbaya

Timing don’t mean s*** to me

It’s better when you by my side”


Underground and independent music is so unique and important because of the deep bonds we create with the art and artist through their experiences, their lyrics, their overall messages. Some of the most personal and visceral memories I have from this past year are associated with songs like “GO BACK!” and “TYPE TIME” by Biking with Francis for its upbeat sound and provoking a desire to run away from everything with no constraints, or “Sage” by Frank Sativa which delves into loneliness and a hint of betrayal due to unrequited love. Now, listeners who can empathize with artists similar to Leonard have JUDO! which features songs like “Jet Flux” and “Ballad” to remind us that we really are not alone. In spite of events that exist outside of our control, JUDO! leads us by example, expressing that we can prevail and triumph over myriad hopeless situations time and time again. As the name itself suggests, JUDO! can be interpreted as Leonard grappling with every chokehold, joint lock, throw, pin or tilt life sends his way. Overall, the album is an improvement in production quality and sound since HONEYDEW and is fairly different in terms of musical content. JUDO! Is more individualized to Leonard and his style so of course it may not be as happy-go-lucky as Biking with Francis’ message as a group in HONEYDEW. That being said, JUDO! is not comparable on a 1:1 scale with the previous project he was involved in. However, it upholds the standard of musical quality while pushing the boundaries of how much influence newer styles can take from preexisting ones and still sound incredibly unique and fresh to the artist.


Final score: 9.3/10

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About the Contributor
Noel Castillo
Noel Castillo, Editor-in-Chief
Noel is a senior at SPHS, he is the current Editor-in-Chief and this is his fourth year writing for the Talon. He enjoys providing entertainment and information for others and one way he can do both is getting the scoop on people’s lives and sharing them. He loves listening to and writing hip-hop music, skateboarding, learning, playing video games and hanging out with friends. 

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