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.