August 17, 2013
Record Reactions: Washed Out – Paracosm
Welcome to Record Reactions, where I share my thoughts on a new release from the worlds of popular and independent music. Today’s record is Paracosm, from chillwave and electronic act Washed Out.
I love chillwave. Sure, it wasn’t a movement with the most impact, or more complicated origins, but darn it chillwave made for a fun listen. Now, as Pitchfork Music pointed out, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene, once a leader in the genre, is now a man without a movement, a lone leader in this movement that isn’t dying, but is definitely changing.
Back in 2011, when this subgenre was at the height of its powers, Washed Out’s debut Within and Without was a standard-bearer, though not devoid of typical drawbacks. If one were to take a closer look at those songs, they might accuse it of being thin and unsubstantial. Highlights like Soft and Amor Fati were made up of nothing more than a single synth, a drumbeat, and some hazy vocals. But as a whole, they were still impactful, beautiful little tracks.
On Paracosm, Greene doesn’t allow for the same problem to occur. The arrangements on this album are layered, sweeping, and orchestral. He’s said to use more than 50 instruments over the course of this record, and the complexity of these songs reflects that. It also allows for these songs to jam for long stretches without wearing thin or losing their value.
The “chill” label is not misplaced here. Chords don’t change for stretches at a time, and every sound is doused in a dusty, ethereal cloak. It’s relaxing and inspiring to listen to these songs. Worries are thrown away, and for stretches of this album, everything in the world seems okay. The importance of that effect cannot be underestimated.
One of the more underrated features to Washed Out’s music is the quality of the original vocals Ernest Greene offers up. The song Weightless has a fine beat and a great energy, but all of the beauty in this song is due to his impassioned singing, especially on the stand-up-and-cheer chorus.
Elsewhere, there is unsteadiness. All I Know opens with a slight stumble. The ornamentation on the title track is slightly offbeat. But from those unstable beginnings, they flourish. All I Know is one of the best jams on the record once it hits its stride, and Paracosm unfurls into a smooth little tune…then leads triumphantly into the feel-good moment of this feel-good album, the closer Falling Back.
At first appearances, this is a complicated album. But at the core of its essence, Paracosm still devolves to its immediate elements: chill, love, and vibes. And it’s such a great experience to listen to.
Favorite Tracks: Don’t Give Up, Weightless, Falling Back
Remember these reviews are just my opinion, and that little number up there doesn’t mean much! Have you heard this album? What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? If you would like to let me know your opinion, you can hit me up on my email, or tweet at me @RobinCopple1. I am dying to know what you think! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the flipside! Stay tuned.
Image Credit: Washed Out / Sub Pop Records