Washed Out burst onto the scene with the excellent debut Life of Leisure which became something of a chillwave (remember that?) classic. Debut Within or Without was a limp disappointment but things improved a bit with Paracosm. Ernest Weatherly Greene Jr (for it is he) used 50 different instruments on this. Not that you could always tell but it expanded his palette somewhat. However there's a twist. Following the album he moved to Stones Throw and created the great Mister Yellow. Buy that first perhaps but this is no slouch.
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LP on Weird World.
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CD on Weird World.
After the genre-defining ‘Life of Leisure’ EP it was difficult to know where Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene) was going to go. Sadly the answer as provided by debut album ‘Within and Without’ was largely “unimpressive one-dimensional limpness”. The sort of record that justifies the phrase “always judge a book by its cover”. I’m trying hard not to judge this new album by referring to any of his previous releases, it’s still poor when put next to ‘Life of Leisure’ but is a vast improvement on ‘Within and ‘Without’...I think.
It starts irritatingly with the sound of birdsong, hurtling anyone with a hatred of the more new-age excesses of the chillwave generation to the ‘stop’ button. Bells tinkle but it’s all so obviously processed on the computer at home it lacks any real atmosphere. That said, the song that emerges out of it all is really good; ‘It All feels Right’ has a faintly reggae/Caribbean flavour but any concerns about the appearance of Jimmy Buffett are dimmed by a strong melody and his distinctive dreamy vocals. Its sampled synth string refrain reminds me of Mercury Rev’s high water mark ‘Deserters Songs’.
‘Don’t Give Up’ begins with that gorgeous synth sound he is so adept at, the production here is much closer to ‘Life Of Leisure’. Single ‘All I Know’ is a nice upbeat affair with a catch all chorus despite some quite preposterous synth wibbles - what in god’s name made him put them there I don’t know but at some point the decision should have been made to exterminate them. Still, a quite lovely track that will certainly get fans of M83 toe-tapping.
The pacing of the album is much better than his previous full-lengther, there is some upbeat stuff so it’s not all so samey and ploddy. There are attempts at variation such as on ‘Great Escape’ which I’m fairly convinced is sampling Omar’s ‘There’s Nothing Like This‘. There are also some fine production tweaks on here such as percussion to invigorate the sound. He needs to listen to the percussion on Stevie Wonder records, how prominent it is in the mix - it would certainly help reduce the synthetic laptop sound at times.
It does seem from this album that Washed Out is still a work in progress, he has a sound and is sticking to it despite the pricier gear he’s using causing the music to lose much of the distinctive edge it once had. It’s better than the last one, and a good solid dreamy pop record with lots of glacial new agey synth sounds but it’s just too smooth and samey to really inspire. It all needs a bit of grit, lad.
4/10 Vern 8th August 2013
I somehow avoided the highly rated 'Within and Without' by this geezer. No apparent reason (probably because the album cover looked like that of a 15 year old girlband) but after hearing this album's single 'It All Feels Right', I thought I'd give this a go.
Firstly, I don't love the single. I'm a lover of psychedelic music and found it to almost be a cliché, rattling percussion, fading vocals and a synth line to melt your face with, it seemed too obvious. You can't however dismiss its catchy rhythm, sunny vibe, it's fun, it's warmth, I have to like it and its been doing the rounds in my head. Like the single, the whole album emits rays of sunshine, you want to be outside, get some friends together. There are some real Röyksopp – Eple vibes flying around. On 'Weightless', things get somewhat darker, an M83 style stadium filler which seems to be vacuous rather than inspiring. The songs have nice flourishes, perhaps so nice that this guy has decided to just chuck 'em on the rest of the songs. Throughout the album you can't help but think 'Why doesn't this guy get some different vocal software' as his faded vocals begin to get tiresome and the swirling synths just make all the songs blend together into a messy mixture of tedium and predictability.
There really is little to get excited about beyond the single here. I'm sure with some persistence, a particular song will sound unique rather than just like all the rest but I don't feel nearly half gripped enough to attempt a further listen. Although an American, this album feels more like a British summer, sunshine and showers with an overall feeling of damp. No matter how many shimmers he throws on to it, you're still in soggy old Slough.
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- Paracosm by Washed Out
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