Paracosm - Washed Out

By Alex Miller

Washed Out’s new release Paracosm is to listening what Instagram is to pictures: it provides a warm, yet sometimes overdone, filter for your ears. That’s not meant as an insult; the album’s music is exactly what Earnest Greene—the artist behind the chillwave project Washed Out—intends it to be: laid-back and mellow with a hint of synthetic pop.  It is the equivalent of a lazy summer afternoon spent lying in the grass, if said afternoon was sponsored by Urban Outfitters and independently-owned coffee shops.  But to understand the music from Greene’s sophomore album, one must understand a little more about chillwave itself.

Chillwave exists as a sort of sub-genre to electronic.  Rather than produce loud, bass-dropping techno beats to satisfy spastic bouts of fist pumping, chillwave artists seek to create more ambient music through synthesizers and soft vocals.  The result is a warm, 1980s style music which is perfect for getting lost watching a lava lamp or the twenty-first century equivalent of the media player visualizer.

With a quick search of the word “paracosm” one learns the word means a detailed fantasy world invented by a child.  Greene seeks to provide a soundtrack for that world through a journey of lush vocals and cheery, natural tones.  The album opens with the chirping of birds (a bit of a cheesy allusion to introduce the “otherworldly vibe” given by the title).  But with the following song “It All Feels Right,” Greene begins to provide music destined for the beach or a summer evening drive.
It is a good thing the album is relatively short.  At a certain point, the songs begin to run together, but the album is sort of designed that way.  The drowsy melodies have a calming effect such that they lull you into a trance, allowing you to escape into whatever world your mind can conjure.  At times, bits of the album will snap you back to reality with hints towards vague memories: the rush of summer air through the window, the warm sun on your cheek, etc.  Greene ultimately succeeds in providing a method of escape and manages to do so with a pleasing listening experience that is quite unlike anything else available.