If I had to choose a soundtrack for daydreaming, Paracosm would be one of the two records I would choose. The other album would be by Swedish pop duo The Sound of Arrows, but Washed Out is currently taking lead. It’s always a nice surprise when someone takes their time to make an album but when it sounds so effortless and natural, the level of surprise is elevated to a higher extreme. Of course, any well written song will always have your attention but this collection embodies emotion, ambiance, and a lot of soul. And the results from the previous album to this one shows that Ernest Greene is still in that dream phase.
I first ran into Washed Out the year the first album, Within and Without, was released in 2011. The album sat on Radio-Active Records new release wall for some time, so each time I walked in it was there… different spot each time but there. The artwork was attractive but I didn’t have the courage to pick it up. Until my friend Armando came down from NYC for a visit. He pointed it out to me and said “You’re gonna love this record, buy it.” And like always, he was right. Armando is a close friend of mine who I’ve known for some time and we suggest albums all the time.
When it was announced that Paracosm will be released, I knew I had to jump on it. And I’m glad that I did. Musically, it shows growth from the first album without having that sophomore slump that some bands have. It has the familiar styling that was introduced on the first album, but improved with more live instrumentation than samples. Which I think touring helped influence and refine. It’s a fine balance of machines and instruments, which some either get it or don’t. Greene understands this quite well, and it reflects off of songs like “All I Know”, with its quiet guitar and simple drums surrounded by a small wall of synthesizers. The sound design is amazing, and if you add attention to detail, this is one those albums that you’ll hear a new sound each and every time.
Ernest’s vocals are wonderful and sound effortless. Not much of an over exaggerated vocalist, after all the attention should be directed to the music, he sings simple melodies that compliment the arrangements. He’s using his voice as an instrument rather than the attention grabber. After all, it is a one man band, how much more attention does one really need?
The artwork for this album is really attractive and reflective of the music that is waiting inside. The cover collage is by Sara Cywnar, an artist from NYC who has experience doing collages and photogrpahy since about 2004. Photography is done by Shae Detar, who is also from NYC. If you take a look at her photos, she has a really vintage style but is quite clean and warm. Both Cywar and Detar’s input really gives a feminine touch to Paracosm, making it inviting to everyone. Then of course, the special touch… green vinyl! This is obviously great in anyone’s collection, I just miss the days of finding out after the purchase that the record is colored instead of being told by the big sticker on the cover.
Paracosm is Washed Out’s second full length album released on Sub Pop. It’s always nice when a label allows the artist or band to take musical chances because it allows them to be themselves. Sub Pop has been around for a very long time, being credited with bringing attention to the Seattle rock scene. Since then, they’ve signed different bands with different styles which has produced a quite eclectic roster of releases. I suggest checking out some of their compilations to hear what they’ve released and get into such an influential label’s history.
OK, so if you’re looking to get into Washed Out this is a great representation. A fantastic collection of songs that is a great way to get into the Dream Pop genre without listening to something way too strange that will probably be a major turn off. Paracosm can also be a soundtrack to a great long distance drive, a day of lounging, or a dinner party. I think that this is one album not to be missed by anyone who is looking for a summer album to help you relax rather than getting rowdy. This is an album that definitely grows with you but will have you hooked at first spin.
PAIR THIS ALBUM WITH
Anne-Sophie Pic & Michel Chapoutier, Viognier [Rhone, France 2011]
We’re going to aim for a great summer get together, but instead of burgers and hot dogs, we’re going for something light like fresh seafood or extreme opposite like spicy food. You can always have fresh fish or shrimp with a sauce on the side that’ll introduce the spicy side, similar to a spicy dragon roll or Thai food. The contrast in that combination will really bring out all the flavors.
This bottle of Viognier is a great while young wine, so try to pick up a more recent vintage if possible. It holds a very light yet floral tone, so it’s going to be semi sweet to the nose. But taste-wise, it is slightly dry which is typical of wines produced in the Rhone area of France. Quite enjoyable when nicely chilled, so keep it in an ice bucket and let it aerate.
Vinyl & Vino rating: 5 out of 5
TOP FAVORITE TRACKS
All I Know