After Ernest Greene graduated from the University of Georgia, he initially pursued a career as a librarian. When he couldn’t find a job, he moved home and started to produce the songs that he heard in his head. His debut, Within and Without, was released under the pseudonym Washed Out in 2011, and was well received by many influential music bloggers. With this year’s follow-up, Paracosm, Washed Out continues to give new life to electro-pop with a brand that has been categorized as “chillwave.” The songs on Paracosm are laced with the dreamy synthesizers of M83, but are far from mere ersatz. The album has its own musical vibe, which feels as if it were produced with headphones in mind. Listening to it, you can’t help but venture inward. Once there, you are overcome by an electronic calmness as Washed Out leaves you suspended in his ambient sounds and heavily effected vocals.
I almost always prefer the sound of a guitar to that of a synthesizer, and, with a few exceptions, I am not typically a fan of electronic music. But when listening to Paracosm, I found its unique airy quality and lazy beats to be irresistible. By the start of the single, All I Know, you have already begun to float down a river that subtly glows like blue neon – a river that was dug by the hands of Greene in his bedroom studio. On the following track, Great Escape, simple melodies and layers of processed loops produce the feeling of languid regeneration you get when the wheels of your airplane lift off and you start to fly home. Nearing the album’s end, Falling Back, sounds like David Bowie waking up from a nap. With a tight beat set at a walking tempo, the now-familiar legato of Greene’s voice carries itself from a calming verse to a catchy pop chorus. During its refrain, just as it feels like Greene might break the song’s light stride and enter into all-out-dance-party-mode, Falling Back retreats into sparseness. Here, the song’s ending beautifully segues into the final track of Paracosm, All Over Now.
On Paracosm, Washed Out reaches back to the glory days of 1980s electro-pop while also taking a step forward. His sound seems to reconsider electronic indie, but it does so without re-writing the rules of pop music. His effected voice is soothing, and his melodies are catchy. In a box, Washed Out blends pop-song structures with dreamy synth sounds and beats that seem to flirt with hip-hop. Ready for a tranquil sonic meditation? Grab your headphones, put on Paracosm, close your eyes, and get inside.