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FEATURE: Stream 'Curious Cool', the latest EP From Willis Earl Beal #SoundCheck

As the tools of self distribution and DIY networks become stronger, more and more artists are asking the question “why do we even need the labels?” For a former street musician like Willis Earl Beal, a label is little more than a marketing department; a means to a fan base. But it comes with a set of rules and release schedules. A huge chunk of Beal's appeal is that he follows his own muse whatever anyone says. So without any announcement or fanfare, he suddenly released his latest Curious Cool.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

The synth pad heavy 8-song set features some of Beal's strongest vocals. On opener “Lust,” he sounds aged beyond his years. He's buried underneath the sparse arrangement, desperately coming up for air. “Like A Box II” kicks in with drums in full without interrupting Curious Cool's sense of being the soundtrack to a very weird dream. (I would like to live in the alternate universe where Willis Earl Beal wrote the music to Twin Peaks.)

“Stay” kicks in with Casio drums and a spoken intro straight out of 1992 before delving into Willis Earl Beal's version of a slow jam. It's one of those great moments that starts off maybe like a joke before transcending the cheesy inspiration with open-hearted sincerity. “I Know It's Okay. (Simple) II” rides the same line. An organ synth line becomes something more as his heartbreaking vocals melt over the track. It's simple, haunting, and like Willis Earl Beal at his best, it couldn't have been made by anyone else.

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Tags: Beal, Cool, Curious, Download, EP, Earl, Free, MP3, Music, New, More…Soul, Stream, Streaming, Willis


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Comment by Nathan Leigh on April 30, 2014 at 8:29pm

Hey, for sure. I'd be down for an interview. I mean, the goal with DIY is the same as the goals of anarchism: put the tools of production in the hands of the workers. Cut out the middle men who exploit their labor. In this case, the labor is art. But like anarchism, it's tough when you realize that the middle men do actually contribute to the process if only by saving you time. So you get a marketing dept (and trust me, marketing an album is HARD) in exchange for losing your artistic freedom. I think for some people that trade is worth it. For some it's not. And then there's Willis Earl Beal and Death Grips who are trying to have it both ways. And often succeeding. It's encouraging, though I don't know how long they can keep it up...

Comment by Lightning Pill on April 30, 2014 at 5:21pm

About Willis Earl Beal, this guy puts out so much good stuff that I wish there was some way he would release his music for consumption. A Place that Doesn't Exist is music to just relax, space out, and go nutz to. :-)

Comment by Lightning Pill on April 30, 2014 at 5:19pm

I want to talk a little bit more about the whole DIY thing, though. I know more people are looking to do it because of the suspicion that music has been focus grouped before being sold as mere capital, and DIY is made to cut out the middle man between you and the people who will listen to you. But as a DIY musician still trying to learn the ropes of the trade, I found that for some, it can be quite hard living that life out. So, do you know anyone who is interested in me interviewing them about it? Nathan, if you are reading this, are you interested in being interviewed about he highs and lows of DIY music careers?

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