Washed Out, ‘Paracosm’ – Album Review
It’s unclear whether Washed Out and the man behind the project, Ernest Green, will ever shake the term “chillwave.” Green himself seems to take the descriptor in stride these days, even if the music he's making is a far cry from the day-glo, sample-based musings of his debut EP, ‘Life Of Leisure.’ Released in the summer of 2009, that collection all but defined the genre with its anthemic, blissed-out centerpiece ‘Feel It All Around.’
On Washed Out’s proper full-length debut, ‘Within and Without,’ Green blew the bedroom walls off his sleepy, sun-touched sonics, creating a sound resembling full-on new age filtered through a precision pop lens. Green pushed his music into bodiless territory with full-band arrangements splashed across a widescreen canvas, giving Washed Out a newfound depth of feeling that rivaled other brazen electronic luminaries such as M83 in sheer emotional bombast.
Washed Out’s latest offering, ‘Paracosm,’ returns to more corporeal realms. Tinged with wide-eyed psychedelia and some of Green’s initial sample-based leanings, ‘Paracosm’ feels like a comfortable half-step away from ‘Within and Without’’s unconscious excursions toward something a little more vibrant and colorful. Emotionally, its exploring much of the same territory, leaning heavily on Green’s half-lidded vocals and the gaseous, billowing synths that cling to much of Washed Out’s material. But the arrangements and songwriting continue to mature and expand.
‘Paracosm’ shimmers with the sound of harps, sleigh bells and tinkling percussion, and Green adds acoustic guitars and live drums to the cloudy synth pastels. ‘It All Feels Right’ announces itself with bird chirps and vocals Green warps into honey-colored pools of sunlight. ‘All I Know’ stands out with a dash of saxophone, and ‘Great Escape’ treats its synth hook like a sodden steel guitar. The title track features an actual steel guitar.
‘Paracosm’ feels both new and familiar -- and not always in a good way. There’s a unique tangibility to the album that’s reminiscent of Youth Lagoon’s most recent outing, ‘Wondrous Bughouse.’ (The two records also share similar escapist themes.) Green updates classic pop aesthetics with a modern electronic pop sound, but 'Paracosm' doesn’t travel far enough in that direction to really stand out. Most of the album ends up sounding like default Washed Out.
Which is not a necessarily a bad thing. Even if the growth shown on 'Paracosm' is incremental compared to the steps taken between ‘Life of Leisure’ and ‘Within and Without,’ Washed Out still write music that’s designed to get swept up in. Green continues to grow as a producer, and he uses the foundation of his previous work to build something a little more sophisticated. The term “paracosm” refers to an imaginary world. It’s a label that applies to most of Green’s records, but with his latest, he’s created his most detailed world yet.