Willis Earl Beal will release his latest album, Nocturnes, on 28 August via Tender Loving Empire.
It has an inventive build-up, with its DIY quality and dazzling timbres making it consistently mysterious and engaging. Vocally and melodically, Beal evokes his soulful forefathers, which, when done right, is more difficult than it seems. It reminds me a bit of certain tracks from Plastic Beach by Gorillaz, actually. It’s a bit too sparse, though, since Beal’s voice deserves a more luscious arrangement. The contrast between his robust delivery and the limited composition is part of the intrigue, though, so yeah, I’m a bit torn on this one. -- JORDAN BLUM (7/10)
In a year where the abundance of boozy, grisly, dully macho, noir True Detective style shows threatens to build a new cottage industry of noveau blues, it’s wise of Willis Earl Beal to turn his attention away to something else. That he chooses to do so in this manner is an interesting choice. His stalwart voice does juxtapose well above the floating new age ambience, giving it a chance to tower over rather than compete amongst with the sonics. Structurally, this approach clicks well with the lyrical motifs of treading water and fighting to survive amidst a sea of doubt and learned helplessness. Sonically, it reminds me a bit of some of the artier and more static Peter Gabriel pieces like “Lead a Normal Life” and “We Do What We’re Told” and my guess is that like those tracks this will factor in better in the course of an LP than as a standalone. If it was an album of only this stuff though, I might still spin it. -- TIMOTHY GABRIELE (5/10)
Notice: Looking for a Good Time? Undiscerning, prematurely middle-aged set of verses desperately seeks chorus for mutual benefits and discrete ‘song’ action. Not fussy – any kind of repetitive hook or melody will do. Comes with very own horrible Phil Collins-esque backing track. Verses themselves not entirely charmless or unattractive, but currently lacking interesting features. Genuine refrains only, please. No time wasters. -- PAUL DUFFUS (5 of 10)
Loved the sparse, dry sound that opens things, some nice separation of channels, really sets a mood until the vocals come in.This all mood and atmosphere, the song builds and builds the tension until finding release at roughly the 3:30 mark when Beal sings with more force and volume than previously, it’s an effect that works marvelously. -- ANDREW CROWLEY (8/10)