Tag Archives: Washed Out

Washed Out ‘Call It Off’

31 Oct

a new song from Washed Out, taken from their new single ‘Amor Fati’

Washed Out ‘Within and Without’ – Review

6 Aug

Here’s the scenario; you start making music in your bedroom. You don’t expect anyone else to hear the songs. You give yourself a name that describes the music you’re making and then you send the mp3s to a friend, who posts them online. You become popular. Your songs get officially released. A scene builds up around you. You get asked to play festivals, so you ensemble a band and then you sign a record deal. The world expects.

Such is the enviable position of Washed Out (previously just Ernest Greene, now a full band). Except, in interviews, he makes the whole experience sound like water torture. I keep having to remind myself that this is only Washed Out’s debut album, they have been sitting on ‘Within and Without’ for two years (the zeitgeist defining ‘Life of Leisure’ was only a weighty e.p). In that time there has been a critical backlash against Washed Out that has vilified them, and the chilwave genre,  in much the same way that Klaxons and Nu-rave got vilified a few years ago. Most of the bands from the chilwave/glo-fi scene have either abandoned ship or set up camp in a cave somewhere, waiting to see what Washed Out’s (the scene’s natural leaders) next move will be.

It’s a story that has some striking similarities to that of Bon Iver (one man makes an album alone, becomes popular, expands band, becomes even more popular etc). They made the transition swimmingly, retaining what made the debut so successful whilst expanding their soundscapes. Washed Out follow a similar, if slightly more modest, path. On ‘Within and Without’ they are sticking to their guns whilst broadening their horizons. They were once defined by their nostalgically romantic imagery – cassette tapes, polaroids with faded colours, tanned women, wide smiles, a sense of haziness and lost happiness. A kind of otherness. There is still a sense of otherness to the picture that graces the cover of ‘Within and Without’. It is a photograph of a couple in an intimate position – It doesn’t feel real or natural – it looks staged, clinical, too perfect. It is telling that the picture originally accompanied a magazine article on the best sex positions, as it has the same glossy fakeness that defines most fashion publications. Likewise, there is something slightly staged, unreal and other about the music.

‘Eyes Be Closed, ‘Amor Fati’ and ‘Echoes’ are prystine pop songs as viewed through a lens; so straightforward and obvious in certain respects but slightly odd, calculated and perplexing in other ways.  It’s hard to pin down what it is that makes the music this way, perhaps it’s the dreamy multi-tracked vocals, or the dated drum tracks, or the reverb soaked synths – perhaps its all those things.  ‘Life of Leisure’ was essentially blurry, hazy, party music but ‘Within and Without’ is after-party music. It’s relaxed, less distorted, and less busy, all of which chimes with the un-showy, ambiguous and simple lyrics that deal with love and memories of love.

All in all ‘Within and Without’ is a smooth blend of ingredients, but I wonder if it isn’t a little too smooth. Compared to the lo-fi adventures of ‘Life of Leisure’ this new album is just a bit boring – the chill in chillwave is too obvious. It gets off to a lively start but it grinds to a halt at the end; the title track and ‘A Dedication’ make the final third quite monotonous. All of the songs start to blend into one, and more than a couple of tracks sound far too similar to one another. In my review of ‘Life of Leisure’ I noted that the six songs sounded quite samey, and I wondered if Washed Out were a one trick pony. Unfortunately ‘Within and Without’ does little to answer that question, in fact it makes me question it even more.

Earnest made ‘Life of Leisure’ under the impression that no-one would hear those songs, and he has made this album KNOWING that LOTS of people would hear them, and it shows in the subtle differences that seperate the two records. The songs still sound quite samey, and this is certainly a less distinctive record, but in most respects Washed Out have refined their sound and improved as a band. By loosing some of the haziness that defined chillwave they have lost a little of what made them so interesting, and if they continue down the road away from that genre then they will need more tricks up their sleeves, because their songwriting alone wont sustain them for long, not on this form at least. But for now Washed Out remain a fascinating band.


Last Week’s BIG News in Album Art

24 Apr

I was away on holiday last week but that didn’t stop some BIG things going down – like this

Yep, that’s the cover for ‘Suck It and See’ by Arctic Monkeys. I reckon this is a cover people are either going to love or hate, and I’m kind of undecided at the moment. I like the simplicity, especially after the excess of ‘Don’t sit Down Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and it’s video, and I suppose it fits in nicely with the title (which I have finally decided is terrible), as it asks you bluntly to give the album a go, not to judge the book by its cover so to speak. The more I mull it over the more I like it.

Bon Iver has revealed far less divisive album art for his highly anticipated self titled second album. It’s pretty lush…

The tracklisting for said album, as well as an interesting bio, can be found here.

Finally, Lady Gaga has unveiled the artwork for her second album ‘Born This Way’ and it’s pretty strange. The image shows Gaga as some kind of futuristic motorbike. In related news check out this week’s NME for an excellent feature on Lady Gaga written by POPJUSTICE writer Peter Robinson. If like me you have missed the likes of Smash Hits then this feature will make you very happy (check out POPJUSTICE for more funny and intelligent takes on the pop world).

oooooh, whilst I’m here I should say that Washed Out, who released the excellent e.p ‘Life of Leisure’ a year or two ago, has signed to Subpop and will be releasing his debut album this summer. Check out the details here and watch the video for the song ‘Feel It All Around’ below.

Washed Out ‘Life Of Leisure’ – Review

5 Jun

Do you remember cassettes? Do you remember how they would twist and come apart? You could listen to a tape a thousand times and whilst it would sound completely different at the end of those 1000 listens it would sound just as good (albeit in a strange and messed up way). The tape was an instrument in itself – a volatile and impractical instrument maybe, but an instrument nonetheless, one that contributed to an album’s sound. And just as nostalgia brought about the return of vinyl, so nostalgia has brought about the second coming of the cassette.

I may be digressing a bit – this is not an article about the cassette tape – it is a review of the debut album by Washed out. It is not a new release as such, ‘Life of Leisure’ came out last year in America and I put it on my end of year top 20 list – but this week it finally comes out in the UK. And the reason I mention the cassette is because the tape looms large over this record.

‘Life of Leisure’ is warped and bendy – it sounds how a memory feels, distant and dreamy, constantly increasing and decreasing in clarity and volume, always shifting about. This is an album that refuses to sit still, refuses to be coherent or normal. There are brilliant melodies here but they are buried under crackles, fuzz and a blanket of haze. Call it ‘Glo-fi’, ‘Chill Wave’ or whatever hipster title you can come up with, but as far as I’m concerned this is memory music.

It’s impossible to tell what memories Washed Out ( real name Ernest Greene) is conveying through his music, but the record references synth pop, chill-out and dance. And If it wasn’t for the dance textures this could easily have been an album you found buried in some old collection of your Dad’s. It’s party music, but from a party that happened a very, very long time ago – on a beach, and in the dark.

‘Get Up’ and ‘Feel It All Around’ are the two stand out tracks but all the songs blend into one quite convincingly. That could be because Washed Out is a one trick pony (there is little diversity over the six songs) but he does that one trick very well. Whilst the sound is not unique (see also Neon Indian and Memory Tapes), the stunning melodies and joy of these songs make this album stand out from the pack. It’s true that we often find the future in our past, and ‘Life of Leisure’ manages to sound revolutionary and yet strangely familiar and warm.


Summer Camp

10 Feb

Another new band for you, and one who prefer to let the music do the talking. Like recent acts Kindness and Burial, Summer Camp are an anonymous band who hide behind retro photos and red herrings. They claimed they are swedish – they aren’t, so who knows if they really met at summer camp, aged 14 as they also claim.

They have a cool sound, a mixture of film samples, dance beats, nostalgic lyrics and poppy melodies. They aren’t dissimilar to Washed Out but their sound is more geared towards pop than dance. In particular ‘Ghost Train’ stands out, it’s simply a great, hazy, summery smash. Rumour has it that Moshi Moshi could be releasing a single from them in March, so I’ll keep you updated on that. Check out their myspace and the video for ‘Ghost Train’ below.