When I Got Washed Out, A True Story

Let’s get straight to it. Washed Out is two animals and an explosive, metaphorically, of course, since animals should not play with explosives. Washed Out is Caribou and sounds like Panda Bear crossed with M83.That’s it. That’s all you need to know. There are other metaphors, other descriptions, other sounds, but really, so what! I care, but, if you have a thing you need to get, you better not dilly-dally …

First, the Caribou. Like, Caribou with Daniel Smith, Washed Out is a single person producing mostly electronically. One is Canadian and one is not. Guess which?

Second, Washed Out has a king of hazy, indistinct sound, like Panda Bear. Real analog instruments and sound effects take individual sonic pieces and create a kind of pureed sound like Noah Lennox’s Panda Bear project. Unlike Panda Bear, Washed Out has been given the chillwave moniker which, if I’d known that in advance, would have turned me off right away.

Third, Washed Out has a kind of twinkly, mid-to-high register sound, like M83, that comes across as mildly happy/curious/alive and somewhat fantastical even when the subject matter gets sad. Despite being named after an explosive, M83, is not explosive. Neither is Washed Out. Both stand out from the background, but neither is prepared to punch you in the face.

All three compared artists are the visionaries between named solo projects or bands, just as Washed Out is really Ernest Greene. So, two animals and an explosive.

Washed Out came at me in a perfectly bad moment where I was just driving around hoping to run away from the darkness inside me. I listened, at first, thinking, “Eh, it’s OK. Whatever.” Moments later, I saw the sky and the pretty colors of the clouds. Soon after, before even a full song had passed, I was just hearing the beauty in Paracosm‘s opening track, “Entrance” which, really, is like the soundtrack to a tropical zoo exhibit. As that fades into “It All Feels Right”, the easy going optimism and and understated bounciness had me hooked. Now, as I listen to “Don’t Give Up”, I feel a little sadness as the background party noises tell of people easily having a happy time. But that’s just me. In reality, the song fits into that sleepy time on the beach when the party is just winding down. The singer, somehow perennially fresh, sings as if reminiscing about the past hours. By “All I Know”, you’ll hear the best sounds of the Moody Blues “In Your Wildest Dreams”, but more relaxed and twinkly, maybe more of an upbeat version of the Church’s “Under the Milky Way”. I soar, listening to this track, not dangerously, just gently and comfortably. This is the point where beauty planted itself in my troubled mind. Greene gets his real chillwave hip hop going on “Great Escape” which is forgettable enough that I’m not even sure what’s up with it — not bad, just not memorable. There’s more. The album continues to an ordinary length, adding in pianos, twinkly harp sounds, swelling cymbal, and so on, marking itself as the kind of rock music that a New Age fan could appreciate it (ouch, that hurt to write). After peaking at “All I Know”, the album proceeds to wind things back to a more contemplative lower-key tone, like title track “Paracosm” which could, in fact, be the music from “True Blood” performed in the haze of heroin, a drug I only know how to spell. Would the album fade out responsibly without a tear jerker like “Falling Back”? It would not. I have no idea what he’s singing (like Panda Bear, again), but this is a hazy song feeling of lost love, closing the door on a happy period in life.

On another day, in a another part of life, I’d go right passed this album without missing anything, without even feeling embarrassed. But, this album came at me at the right time and with the right sound, so, in return, I’ll treat it well. Buy it if you’re feeling crappy, and are on the way home from QDoba with your life falling apart. I’m sure it’s good for other life events, but I couldn’t handle the product testing. So, don’t buy it, if you don’t want to, but don’t tell me, I’m already a loyal fan.

10 thoughts on “When I Got Washed Out, A True Story

  1. There are several things in this review that trouble me. Mostly they have to do with words I do not fully understand, with or without context. I do not know chillwave. This should make me begin to feel old, but instead has the effect of making me sad for my language. Twinkly I understand a little better, though the word puts me right into a smokey juke joint somewhere in New Orleans, or just outside – Metarie, maybe. But it is the life falling apart thing that is most disturbing. These things matter.

    • Chillwave? It’s a label used by people who like to divide their music into overly small bins, people like me, I guess. It has the mellowness of New Age combined with the instrumentation of modern electronic dance music. It’s what you’d listen to at the end of a night out dancing to whatever a super-fantastic electronic DJ was playing.

      As for twinkly, I think you have it almost right. Move the scene to the deck just outside with the stars faintly visible and you have it.

      My life has fallen apart in the ordinary, but painful, ways life has a tendency to do. It is definitely putting itself back together or, rather, I am. Life is going in the right direction, but the most recent bottom is too close for comfort. It matters and I’m happy to live through it, less happy to live in it, and accept it as the price one pays to truly live.

  2. This album was one of the great surprises this summer, besides new glasses and Legoland being kinda lame. Paracosm turns Ernest Greene from just sort of a cool, hip novelty into something more. Ben H. Allen’s production helps, but I think Greene went from just slightly hazy “cool-sounding” songs into something more artistic and deep.

    “Great Escape” reminds me of Marvin Gaye. I like that.

    • I knew I’d heard someone cool writing about this album before. I swore I wasn’t the first one in my circle to stumble upon this. I was right. You, sir, were the wise first listener.

      Honestly, at another time, I really wouldn’t like this album, but it was SO perfect for this time. A Caribou album had the same role in a different time and now stays available for listening just for sentimental reasons. That’s not the worst reason to like an album!

Am I wrong?