Willis Earl Beal’s debut 2012 record Acousmatic Sorcery was an entirely contradictory affair, one that saw Beal effortlessly gallivanting between tender lo-fi folk and throat shredding blues. As affecting as those down and dirty blues cuts were, it was the songs rendered in a whisper that made the most noise. “Evening’s Kiss” found Beal in confessional songwriter mode, sheepishly rattling off the line, “ask me who I’m with, and I’ll tell you I’m without.” That same sort of shy uncertainty was also festering in “Away My Silent Lover,” still one of my favorite tunes from 2012, with Beal verging on tears by the song’s end. If bedroom pop or folk had a torchbearer in 2012, it was Beal.
The first cut off his sophomore release Nobody knows., “Everything unwinds.” lonesomely drifts onto the folkie side of the fence. Beal’s voice resonates as if slithering up from a canyon, a simple chord progression pulling him up. Beal is still in a dejected state here, reflecting “you’re the one that I needed, and the reason I wept,” and a plodding synth line only furthers that loneliness. That synth is something that would’ve been alien to Acousmatic Sorcery, though here it’s a welcome companion to Beal’s dejection. The tape hiss may have disappeared, but the emotion is still in plain sight.