Yesterday Chicago-reared singer-songwriter Willis Earl Beal teamed up with popular file-sharing service BitTorrent to release a free five-song EP called Principles of a Protagonist. The EP shares its name with a novel Beal struggled to finish; Hot Charity/XL packaged a version of the book with his official debut full-length, Acousmatic Sorcery. The songs on the new EP, which are new versions of cuts from Beal’s album, will be used to soundtrack a forthcoming animated film, also called Principles of a Protagonist.
It’s been interesting to watch the way critics, fans, and even detractors have struggled to describe Beal’s music. I called him an antifolk artist when I wrote my Reader B Side feature about him last summer, and as far as I’m concerned the term is a fine fit for the warm, messy, and heartfelt home recordings on Acousmatic Sorcery; his idiosyncratic sound has evolved since then, but I still think “antifolk” is as good a description as any. He ditched most of Acousmatic Sorcery‘s lo-fi trappings when he redid the instrumental tracks for Protagonist, resulting in collection of dense-sounding tunes whose style could be succinctly described as “whatever Beal has in mind.”