Washed Out (ne Ernest Greene, former Dawg and current Athenian) makes woozy, tentative music with gauzy vocals and nostalgia-tinted synths. It’s the sort of thing that sounds great soundtracking the interiors of hip Thai restaurants, elevators and episodes of “Portlandia” (Greene’s breakout single “Feel It All Around” plays during the title screen), but comes off a bit middle-of-the-road when played elsewhere.
Washed Out’s first songs featured the Perry, GA native singing muffled melodies over slow-mo Italo disco samples. The technique was lazy, to be sure, but almost overnight, those scattered lo-fi tracks became the template for a new underground sound, dubbed “chillwave,” and Greene became the poster boy for the genre. Three years since those early singles and two since his debut LP, Within and Without, Greene has managed to recreate the ethereal mood and small stakes sound of his early bedroom productions but with decidedly more expensive equipment and semi-local maestro Ben H. Allen at the boards.
Paracosm is more of the same, but fans will pleased: while most of Greene’s contemporaries have moved on—Toro Y Moi splits his time between kraut-inflicted art-rock and J-Dilla-esque beat tapes; Neon Indian has retreated fully into ’80s pop—Washed Out has doubled down on the style that got him his name. Paracosm is the sound of Washed Out attempting to expand his sonic palette without the versatility to do so. And while Greene reportedly used over 50 different (mostly analog) instruments in the making of this album, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish these new songs from the old. 2 out of 5.
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