Chicago’s Willis Earl Beal may only be 27 years old but the raw, gritty, emotional vocals on his first album Acousmatic Sorcerey might make you think he’s a worn, tattered old man singing in his garage and strumming an old guitar. And it isn’t just the vocals that are raw, gritty and emotional. His instrumentals sound like he picked up all his gear from the Island of Misfit Toys.
“Take Me Away,” for instance, features Beal’s growling voice completely dominating the song atop of what sounds like him beating on a trash can lid with a drumstick. And this all follows the first track, “Nepenenoyka,” one minute and 48 seconds of straight high-pitched strings being strummed in a simple yet intriguing pattern (which make an appearance again in “Bright Copper Noon”).
Sometimes, though, Beal’s voice sounds incredibly soothing. Take “Evening’s Kiss” for instance, where Beal lightly strums a guitar and quietly recites lines like, “Gazing at the phase of an overcast day/Watching rain fall from a dim café/Can’t see the wind but I see the trees sway/Now the evening’s kiss got me fading away.”
You can hear his youth in “Ghost Robot” where he raps about chillin’ like a villain and Bob Dylan and emo rock geeks and political creeps. Playing this song in your car is bound to rock the hell out of your speakers.
It will be very interesting to see where Willis Earl Beal goes from here. The worst that can happen is he continues living with his grandmother and making this incredible music. But now signed to XL Recordings (Radiohead, Jack White, Adele), things may turn out a little bit different for him.