XL’s newest signing Willis Earl Beal emerged to the wider world via a video where he sings a cappella, under a bridge, wearing a vest emblazoned with the cynical slogan ‘cool new person’. An apt slogan for a singer whose tough past has been projected as the universal image of hardship, as a recorded and saleable commodity. His difficult past, a homeless life on the streets of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has borne the anger, heartache and desperation of these 11 oddly positioned odes.
The album sees Beal walk in the shoes of such troubled troubadours as Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, with the latter’s industrial beats and the former’s poetry. The extremely ‘lo-fi’ recording, having used a karaoke machine, which evokes Daniel Johnston, stages the raw intensity of emotion in portraying the “none, as in no-one” of the homeless, through to the lost love of Away My Silent Lover. These songs are powerful, vehement, soulful, and impossible to ignore.