What a life singer/songwriter Willis Earl Beal has had: he is no stranger to its highs and lows that’s for sure. He joined the US army before being discharged due to illness, and he spent some time being homeless. More recently he went through a divorce, perhaps to be one of the subjects of his third full length album Noctunes, his first new release in over a year and the first release via record label Tender Loving Empire; could this be some of the singer’s best work to date?
Beal clearly loves the atmosphere and beauty he can create in his musical landscapes, Noctunes consists of tracks that set various moods and arcs up the curiosity of his listeners. At times his voice sounds so simple, but in other moments it’s so sensual and more than what it seems. Tracks like Under You, Like A Box and 12 Midnight really take you under their wing and transport you to another realm, the arrangements on this album are so luscious and appeasing. There are moments where you feel emotional along with Beal, particularly in No Solution and Stay where he uses his vocals in desperation. The slow ballads take you away too, Able To Wait is one of the most intimate tracks on the album and allows you to focus on the vocals and lyrics.
When listening to Noctunes you can hear why it isn’t simple to define the artist that is Willis Earl Beal, he isn’t a fan of labels and even makes it difficult for listeners to categorise his music. It’s definitely an experimental kind of an album, and although it doesn’t consist of anything too upbeat or catchy, it still follows its own formula and the tracks flow quite smoothly. It wouldn’t make sense to ask for something more boppy or mainstream from Beal, it just wouldn’t feel right for him and his fans, but listening to Noctunes was like a breath of fresh air and it was nice to temporarily escape from what is typically heard on the radio.