Washed Out has time and time again been an incredibly impressive example of the chillwave genre. The genre has obviously grown over the years, and with it, the techniques used along with the ideas responsible have solidified and matured as well. Synthesizers willingly take a front seat while guitars and other instruments remain as accompaniment, and vocals are hazy, soft, and dreamy. Although these instructions might sound simple on paper, execution takes both a steady hand and a steady mind in order for the product to not sound messy and forced. Basically, Ernest Greene knows what he’s doing, and it’s clear with each listen.
Greene’s debut album Within and Without was released some time after his EP Life of Leisure, and houses a lot of the same blissful, atmospheric tracks. Opener “Eyes Be Closed” sounds dreamy and celestial, brimming with positive energy and synth that seems to illuminate with each beat. “Echoes” diffuses more into a dance track, with it’s bouncy, metallic sounds and fast-paced drums, and it’s here where we can hear a slight comparison to fellow chillwave enthusiasts Toro y Moi and Tycho. “Amor Fati” is probably my favorite off of the album, simply because I feel it’s one of the only ones that voluntarily takes you on a journey from start to end, much like the content of it’s music video. It actively sounds optimistic, deep, and introspective, and it’s these three ideas that seem to bounce off each other so beautifully. “Soft,” much like it’s title, is lovely, mellow, and beautifully lyrical. Greene’s voice is gorgeous, and the fact that the words all blend together make it even more fantastical. While you might have to actually look up the lyrics to understand them, that effort is worth the beautiful imagery that’s enhanced with the music. Within and Without is a wonderful album that eases you in gently into the world of chillwave, lovingly omitting the intense, complex ideas that often times steer others away. I enjoyed Washed Out’s sophomore album Paracosm a bit more, mainly because of the fact that it sounds more mature and sophisticated. It’s album cover was bright, colorful, and more intoxicating than their debut, which was more intimate. Immediately from the tropical sounding track “Entrance,” and it’s repeated aviary sounds give it a beautiful, exotic edge that streamlines wonderfully into “It All Feels Right.” Here, it’s clear that Greene took on a more psychedelic, MGMT style approach with these songs, although it’s extremely muted. “Don’t Give Up” is lush and vibrant, with a deep, intricate vocal track, that, for the first time attempts to break free from the normal progression that it usually takes. Greene’s voice is more readily and clearly heard, which is all I wanted from the first album. “Weightless” rings true to it’s name. The sparse arrangement of drums and percussion mixed with the broad, expansive dreamscape that is the synth is breathtakingly gorgeous. I’ve found over the span of these two albums that something that Washed Out is skilled at doing is providing a narrative and plot to his sounds, which is what makes him a force to be reckoned with. Speaking of which, “All I Know” follows the same path as what I feel is it’s predecessor, “Amor Fati,” I see them as equals, both in their delicate, yet powerful construction and it’s intense, yet beautiful melodies. Title track “Paracosm” merges well into the closing tracks “Falling Back” and “All Over Now” with a triumphant, amazingly overwhelming sense of pure confidence. While With and Without is better considered a nocturnal masterpiece, Paracosm is more of a brisk, light listen meant to be enjoyed driving over sun kissed highways and basking in the warmth of the outdoors. Washed Out, despite his hilariously ironic name, is anything but. He knows how to evoke feelings of love and harmony with the bitter emotions of loss and pain, and that honesty shines through effortlessly.