Stereogum: “Album of the Week”
“There’s no nice way to say this, but during a busier week, Paracosm, the second album from Washed Out, wouldn’t have gotten that Album Of The Week nod. During next Tuesday’s new-release avalanche (Earl Sweatshirt! Superchunk! No Age! A$AP Ferg!), it would’ve been immediately lost in the shuffle. And indeed, it seems almost expressly designed to get lost in the shuffle. This is intricately sculpted soft-pop music, music about drift and indecision, overloaded with harps and keyboard squiggles and bird noises, sung in the sort of voice that suggests the split-second when you wake up from an afternoon nap and you’re not yet sure where you are or what day it is. I don’t like it as much as Washed Out’s first album, the gorgeously memory-dazed 2011 synthpop makeout collection Within And Without. I don’t even like it as much as Life Of Leisure, the 2010 EP that more or less accidentally defined chillwave the same way the first Ramones album more or less accidentally defined punk. And yet Paracosm is a good album with a few great moments. And more important than that, it’s an album that defines a mood, or a moment.
Chillwave, of course, became an internet punchline the second it became a genre — or maybe even before then, since I remember thinking to myself, “Oh god, am I going to have to start using ‘glo-fi’ now?” That’s just what happens now. A few artists play around with similar ideas and accidentally stumble their way into becoming an art movement, that movement gains a catchy/dumb name somewhere along the way, and then people start making fun of whatever gets that movement-name stamp. It happens all the time now: mumblecore, trap rave, vulgar auteurism, the golden age of television antiheroes. I’m guilty of teasing this stuff sometimes, and you probably are too. Chillwave remains the deepest and darkest example — a name that suggests both paralyzing nostalgia and paralyzing indolence. And it’s been fascinating to see what the people in the first wave of artists pegged with the name have done to distance themselves, to move on. Neon Indian has gone full-on glitch-glam. Toro Y Moi has turned toward breathy and idiosyncratic soul music. And both guys’ post-chillwave albums have been really good. Washed Out main man Ernest Greene, by contrast, doesn’t seem invested in moving on. If anything, he’s doubled down, and folded in another form of recently out-of-fashion music: The hazily tropical Balearic beach-music of continentals like El Guincho and Air France and jj and Studio. He’s moved past chillwave by making something even chiller, and so maybe he deserves respect for sticking to his sleepy, sleepy” guns.