Album Reviews - Reviews

Washed Out – Paracosm


“Nothing like this sound I make that only lasts the season and is only heard by bedroom kids who buy it for that reason.” Matt Berninger probably wasn’t singing specifically about chillwave on the National’s ‘Lit Up’, but he might as well have been. Like anything sporting the “nü-” prefix or the NME’s current, desperate hawking of “psych”, chillwave was one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-em musical trends that sounded great on first exposure but rapidly vanished like the one-trick ponies they so obviously were. With its easy-to-digest blend of muffled vocal harmonies, shoegaze fuzz and blissed-out Balearic beats it’s not hard to see why the style cast such a powerful spell over so many to start with.

Among the movement’s leading lights was Ernest Greene, AKA Washed Out, whose addictive, accessible take on the form gained widespread acclaim with the release of the languid lope of the single ‘Belong’ and the excellent Life of Leisure EP.  The trouble with chillwave’s soporific approach soon became apparent, though: the musical trickery that enveloped the listener in a snug sonic cocoon on one track simply became mind-numbingly dull when repeated over the course of a whole album. Despite his obvious talents, Greene could not escape this fact; the full-length debut Within & Without may have housed splendid cuts like ‘Amor Fati’ and ‘You & I’, but was ultimately no more equipped to hold people’s long-term attention than any of its peers.

So has this problem been addressed with Paracosm? Bluntly: no. There are, of course, some great songs here. Opener proper ‘It All Feels Right’ feels like a throwback to ‘Belong’, all island sunshine and slow-mo rhythmic bouncing; the urgent yet melancholic ‘Falling Back’ surges on some sweeping strings and crashing chords; ‘Don’t Give Up’ augments its gritty beats and catchy bassline with phasing synths and bongos. In fact, pull any individual track and the chances are you’ll enjoy it; play the whole album and it becomes one endless fluffy blur from which the mind wanders at will. One to cherry-pick, then. Lee Gorman

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