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Album Review: Washed Out – Paracosm

4 min read

To describe the music of Washed Out in one word, the only appropriate adjective would be “lush.” Ernest Greene, better known as Washed Out, became a pioneer of a still relatively newly formed genre of music known as “chillwave” back in 2009 with his highly praised debut EP High Times. An earnest and captivating self-titled debut album followed this in 2011.

Washed OutAs pretentious as it can inevitably sound,  “chillwave” really was, and still is, the best way to describe this type of music. Listening to Washed Out is like going for a swim in the ocean: incredibly refreshing while being both invigorating and calming. While his self-titled album was that of exploration with nothing more than a computer and a few keyboards, Paracosm sees Ernest Greene fully come into his own as both a musician and an artist.

What was heard in 2011 was undoubtedly a stellar album and a passionately strong splash into the music world. However, with Paracosm, Washed Out have stayed true to the album’s name and created a meticulously focused and well-rounded imaginary world to get lost in. The result is  a collection of songs, that culminates into one awesome wave of sounds, rhythms, melodies, and most importantly, emotions.

The lead single, It All Feels Right, is the perfect indication of this. But, don’t expect the entire album to be just as euphoric. Listening to the single, it’s almost impossible not to imagine a bright, sunny day in the park or on the beach. Allowing the elated chirps of the synthesizer to fully infiltrate your ears will make for one truly blissful experience. This is only emphasized though with the unassuming, yet necessary, introduction in the form of opening track Entrance. This brief introduction, clocking in at just over a minute long, ends up setting the stage for the entire album and the sonic wave that unfolds after it.

Things take a decidedly slower-turn directly after It All Feels Right on the third track Don’t Give Up. This delicately slowed-down tempo, combined with the effervescent vocals of Greene makes for an irresistibly enthralling tune. The album’s momentum continues to be slowed down ever so slightly through Weightless and Great Escape. Then, as though it were a giant splash of water to the face, the album’s title track chimes in with it’s revolving keys and building melodies that erupt onto one another with a series of cymbal crashes. It’ll make you want to sway back and forth, while you’re spinning in circles. When it all seems too chaotic, those echoing vocals chime in once more and create a stepping stool for the instruments to jump off of. At the end of the 6:30 long track, it’s hard to tell whether you feel euphoric or remorseful.

Ernest gives little time to reconcile these emotions though as the speeding Falling Back charges thorough. You’ve stopped spinning and now you’re gliding through the air. With just four minutes left, Greene comes in for a turbulent landing with the undoubtedly brooding All Over Now: a track that not even Beach House could croon.

Although the album’s closing track may leave you with a whimper, it allows the album to be summed up with a triumphant cheer. After much energy has been thoroughly spent, you are left with nine tracks cut to perfection. Listening to Paracosm is, in essence, taking a ticket on an hour-long journey through the waves. While the waves of an ocean can be relentlessly unpredictable though, Washed Out has created an ocean of sound with Paracosm that has been scrupulously and methodically crafted. What has been produced here is a stunning effort of musicality combined with the conscientious understanding of consistency. Ernest Greene has built upon his reputation as being a pioneer of “chill,” a master of sound, and has confidently established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

It’s difficult to compare to the perfection found on Washed Out’s previous offerings, with especial regard to the self-titled debut album. This album does it though, and exceeds any expectations of a sophomore slump. With this album firmly placed in the music zeitgeist, you can firmly bet that whatever you want to call the music being made here, “chillwave” or otherwise; it is not a dying fad or trend. It is simply the successful utilization of emotion and sound as one, and with Ernest Greene at the forefront, it is here to stay.

Buy ‘Washed Out – Paracosm’ from Amazon