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Chillwave, along with the other short-lived genre names like witch house, are best left to abandoned blog posts and tumblrs, but the name still lives on due to the absolute pressure of having to categorize every single sound or musical style. To be fair, for one short moment (the summer of 2011, I guess), chillwave looked like it could be a “legitimate” genre with musical outfits like Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian quickly gaining momentum with their lo-fi blend of analogue synths and dreamy melodies. And you know, all those bands were pretty chill, brah. This is why thirty-year old Earnest Greene’s project, Washed Out, is still deemed to be a chillwave band by the press.
Paracosm, Washed Out’s sophomore effort, is pretty similar to Within and Without, his debut album. Both albums pile up hazy-sounding synths and Greene’s half-awake vocals to create a lo-fi soundscape that is akin to a lazy summer day slowly ending. Perhaps the whole chill wave description isn’t entirely off-base because Paracosm certainly hits all of the genre’s requirements; in fact, it may hit a little too close to home.
“It All Feels Right” is the second track of the album, following the brief “Entrance”, and instantly establishes a precedent that the rest of Paracosm doesn’t live up to. Certainly the most fully realized out of all of the tracks, the song grooves along to what sounds like a sample of a sitar before cooly dropping into the chorus’s gentle drum machine rhythm and moody string backing. The melody isn’t particularly memorable or catchy, but Greene does a good job of creating an environment for the song to exist in.
While most of the tracks are a bit same-y, Greene tweaks the formula ever so slightly to deliver some beautiful moments. The synth swirls of the title tracks are replied to by a delightful sounding double bass giving the song’s ending a nice jazzy feel and swing. “Falling Back” features a momentum inducing rhythm along with the most obvious chorus and vocal hook of the entire album before the entire song fades out to the sounds of an audience clapping and birds chirping away. It all sounds a bit tacked on, but its a nice respite from the rest of the album because, despite these great moments, most of the album ends up in the same swirl of sound.
All of the tracks on Paracosm follow the same formula almost to a tee. For Washed Out’s fans, the album will surely be a delight. For those less enthrall with the sound, possibly even a bit bored by how laid back it all is, perhaps its best to skip most of it and simply check out the highlights. Paracosm isn’t a bad album, it certainly has some very pleasant and worthwhile moments, but it isn’t particularly interesting or exciting. Greene established his sound and identity with his official debut, but Paracosm doesn’t do much in terms of advancing it.