Washed Out

Paracosm

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AllMusic Review by

If Washed Out's first album Within and Without lived up to the band's name, and as the band's Ernest Greene has said, sounded monochromatic, the follow-up, 2013's Paracosm, sounds like a 21-gun salute fired from cannons filled with brightly colored confetti in comparison. Greene made a couple of big adjustments to the way he recorded this album -- first he moved out to the countryside to get his head cleared out, then he decided to add a raft of vintage synths like Optigans and Mellotrons to his arsenal. The former helped him focus his attention and allowed him to pay microscopic attention to the sonic details; the latter added a major amount of variety and warmth to the album, bathing it in echoing tones of color and light. Bringing on board influences from the heady peak days of the shoegaze sound and writing songs that have big, sunny hooks also helps to make the album a wide-screen Technicolor experience. This time out, he also integrates live drums and bass into the mix of instruments, which gives the sound a human core and a little punch when the tempos move past languid and closer to loping. These changes don't mean that Greene is any less chilled out and laid-back; most of the record sounds like the most blissful soft rock album ever made (or the album Chapterhouse might have made if they were big Bread fans) and it's perfect music for doing nothing much on a gloriously warm and sunny summer day. Tracks like "It All Feels Right" or "Great Escape" have a sticky sweet center and sound the way sunscreen smells, "Falling Back" rolls past on cresting waves of hazy sound, and the rest of the album lives up to the title of the most relaxed and dreamlike song here, "Weightless." This album is where Greene puts it all together and lives up to the promise of his early, sound-defining hit "Feel It All Around" by taking his chillwave somewhere sunny and life affirming. (Warmwave, anyone?) Within and Without sounded like music made to be played in a dentist office, cold and lifeless. Paracosm is the music you'd play while lying happily in the grass, or hanging out with your besties, or living life with no cares or cavities. It sounds fully colored in and unless you're a big fan of cold and lifeless, it's a huge step forward for Washed Out.

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