For the record: Washed Out’s ‘Paracosm’ emulates natural ambience

Music columnist Meghan LeVota on why you should join the chillwave movement

By Meghan LeVota | Sept. 10, 2013

Tags: Music


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Everyone has that one genre you go absolutely crazy for. Let’s think beyond the obvious constraints of pop, rock or country: your own particular style that is so totally “you” that if your life was a movie, this would be playing on the soundtrack.

As a dedicated music fan, I can get down to pretty much anything, whether that be Regina Spektor, The Avett Brothers, Justin Timberlake, Mozart, 2 Chainz… (and hey, I admit. I’ve listened to that one new Selena Gomez song).

Although all music deserves appreciation, nothing gets me going more than psychedelic dream pop — or “chillwave” as some have coined the style.

Embracing simplicity and synthesizers, dream pop aims not to drown out but is the perfect supplement to background thought. Instead of distracting you while studying, dream pop lets your mind wander, allowing you to take a closer look at the underlying beauty of our natural world.

Who better to discuss than the father of dream pop himself, Ernest Greene of Washed Out, and his most recent album Paracosm.

In 2009, Greene moved in with his parents as a college graduate unable to find a job, and began making music. His efforts attracted positive attention on Myspace: Popular song “Feel It All Around” went on to define the chillwave movement, as well as encourage other musicians to follow in that direction. This song was then popularized by the television show “Portlandia,” starring Fred Armisen, further expanding the range of Washed Out’s audience.

Once artists have attracted a solid enough fan base, they are able to end the search for consumer approval and exert more energy towards making music. This is exactly what Washed Out does with Paracosm.

The concept of “paracosm” was developed by psychologists. It basically describes a detailed imaginary world that could include humans, animals and/or fantasy creatures.

Washed Out reveals our inner paracosm, giving listeners a glimpse of the fantasy world that exists within our brains by enhancing the inner beauty and wonder of our minds. Paracosm captures the essence of the natural ambient sound that many of us tend to “wash out” (ha…ha ha). This album is the ballad of an introspective soul, and it reminds us to dig deeper. Though it is easy to overlook the natural beauty that is always out there, Paracosm reminds us that the sun is indeed shining, and the wind is blowing.

First track of the album, “Entrance,” isn’t only the perfect entrance; it is entrancing. Washed Out eases us in with the ambience of birds chirping combined with simple arpeggios. “Entrance” prepares listeners for the meat of the album with a transitional glissando combined with an angel choir as if opening the gates of heaven.

Once the gates have been opened, we have the single of the album, “It All Feels Right,” featuring reggae-inspired boom-chicks. Like the beat, Greene reminds us that life, too, will move along, with comforting lyrics: “What’s it all about? / The feeling when it all works out.”

My personal favorite, “Weightless,” implements growing and shrinking dynamics, giving the illusion of rising up. The cyclical beat is incredibly meditative, especially when paired with lyrics suggesting something bigger than humanity, making listeners feel weightless in comparison.

It isn’t a coincidence that both of Washed Out’s most popular songs include the words “feel it” in the title. (In fact, five tracks on “Paracosm” include these lyrics explicitly.) But what is it that Washed Out so desperately wants us to “feel”?

Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a complete hippie child to understand. Greene isn’t any more advanced at “feeling” than the next guy. Where he does prosper is paying attention. This is simple: Feel the sun. Feel the wind. Feel the trees. Feel humanity. Feel your soul. Feel silence.

And while you’re busy basking in all the feels, make sure to take a listen to this album.

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