Washed Out, a formally minimalist chillwave musician consisting of Ernest Greene from Athens Georgia, accelerated quickly in notoriety when his single “Feel It All Around” became the theme song for the television series, Portlandia, and via the help of initially wonderful reviews by pitchfork.com and Urban Outfitters. The band is noted as a groundbreaking element in shaping the “chillwave” genre, specifically their EP Life of Leisure in 2009.
Four years later, after releasing a sophomore album Within and Without, Washed Out released Paracosm in the summer of 2013. One single from his newest album, “It All Feels Right”, appeared visually and audibly as a reminiscent mirroring of his first hit single, “Feel It All Around.” The similarity of these titles, alongside the actual sound of the songs, allude to a mature and nostalgic feeling for his earlier works, before the impact of mainstream popularity demands effected his creativity.
The album itself consists of some of the most experimental sound sampling and vast range of instruments that eventually brought about the album title,Paracosm. The album title quite accurately coincides with its content, a mass collaboration of sampling in a world of its own; from whirling scales of a harp, electronically warped instruments, wind chimes, bells, and even twittering bird sounds are strewn throughout. While this attempt at creativity leans more towards generalized expansion and chaos, the album manages to flow song to song like a rainforest safari, on LSD.
Basically, Paracosm sounds like a bunch of pretty colors floating past, carried by the wind until the end of the album, leaving nothing particularly memorable. Given a second listen though, notable songs such as, “Don’t Give Up” and “All I Know” seem closest to the heart of Washed Out’s distinguishing sound. Paracosm received mixed criticism, mainly negative hints towards Ernest Greene allegedly selling out to Urban Outfitters, while others stayed positive on his latest work despite the accusations. In defense of his more ambient whirlpool of sound sampling, Washed Out says he wrote this album through the little moments in life that makes him feel wonderful and alive. Regardless of its simplicity at moments, his statement perfectly describes the feel-good-happy-go-lucky songs fromParacosm. Thankfully the album is pleasant and great to share with friends and family, or listen to while studying. Let’s just hope Washed Out doesn’t literally become washed out in sound next time.