16
Dec
13

Best Albums of 2013 – #10: Washed Out – Paracosm

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#10: Washed Out – Paracosm (Sub Pop)

Remember when  Chillwave was a thing? When blogs were buzzing with a made-up word and tried to lump together a bunch of sort-of-related bands?

Funny how quickly things changed. Toro Y Moi, for example, turned into a funky sort of indie rock and made cool videos with ghosts. Wild Nothing turned into a full band and started sounding like something from the early 80s. And Washed Out, the band with the most hype of all, somehow stayed the same.

On Washed Out’s first LP, Ernest Greene’s musical project sounded a lot like it did on the cassette and EP releases: melodic, slow and with slow, dream-like singing. It didn’t take you by surprise, but sounded more professional. Needless to say, I liked it quite a lot.

Still, I wasn’t expecting the leaps and jumps he made for Paracosm. Here, Greene doesn’t sound much like a bedroom producer making music himself. For the first time, Washed Out sounds like a full band, right down to the layered vocals. Personally, Paracosm grabbed me right away and never let go.

The acoustic guitar and live drums on songs like It Feels All Right or All I Know push Washed Out’s music out of the bedroom and make them feel like a rock band, not just a producer putting together a track himself. Conversely, on songs like Don’t Give Up, Washed Out still sounds the same, but with an expanded range of color: it’s a fuzzy, slow and melodic but simultaneously feels more alive than anything on Within and Without did. And the title cut just brims with strings (is that a double bass?), steel guitar and a laid-back groove.

Indeed, colourful is a phrase that keeps coming to mind. On their previous records they’ve sounded like something hazy and, er, washed out. White on faded white. Now? Everything’s cleared up and focused. If Within and Without was a band figuring out what they can do as a unit, Paracosm is them actually doing it.

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