No Sophomore Slump Here
Washed Out, also known as the Georgian musician Ernest Greene, chose an apt title for his sophomore album Paracosm, out this week. A paracosm is a complex imaginary, fantasy world, populated by humans, animals, or other creatures—think Middle Earth or Narnia, but not necessarily with the nefarious evil wizards or monsters. On Paracosm, Washed Out invites you to step into a carefully concocted technicolor dream world.
The album begins appropriately with “Entrance.” Chirping birds secede to somewhat eerie keys echoing in a light, tinkling melody, joined soon by lush, stroked harps and angelic choirs. This opening track leads smoothly into the album’s single “It All Feels Right,” which wouldn’t sound all that out of place on the sunsoaked, palm-shaded shores of a tropical island. Languid percussion and a steady bass provide the underpinning for airy synths and strings and Greene’s characteristically “washed out” vocals. It’s a drowsy, phantasmic reverie, perfectly suited for the so-called “chillwave” genre (or for the lazy days of your summer beach vacation).
The rest of Paracosm unravels much in this same manner. On “Don’t Give Up,” layers of synths coalesce into an almost dance-pop song, with spacey percussion that gives it a fluid, jazzy feel. “We’ve come so close, and it feels alright,” Greene drawls, calling back to the previous track. “Weightless” begins with a technological tone, but this quickly cedes to warm waves of synths lapping in a slow, waltz-like ballad. Echoing percussion creates the illusion of vast space, and the lo-fi, bleached vocals mimic distant sound waves carried through an empty atmosphere. The bubbling synths on “Great Escape” make you feel like you’re awash, floating and swaying in some ethereal sea.
Rarely do sophomore albums exude the kind of surety and poise that Washed Out displays on Paracosm. While there isn’t much diversity on the album, Paracosm is an exercise in consistency and a well-crafted, cohesive record; it constantly returns to earlier themes and motifs, perhaps belying Greene’s training as a librarian and, presumably, a book lover. The title track hearkens back to “Entrance” with the return of synthetic harps strummed in rich waves, and the last moments of “Falling Back” recall the quiet, chirping birds from the record’s first few seconds. And of course, “All Over Now” wraps up the album with a satisfying sense of resolution, leaving you to wake from its rambling dream, wondering where you are and where you’ve been.