By Chad Hoyle (@chadillacgrilz)
A Paracosm is defined as a detailed imaginary world often developed during childhood that continues over a long period of time. The word serves at a fitting title to Washed Out’s newest album, which transports the listener to a calmer, more idyllic place than their current reality- an approach firmly rooted in front man Ernest Greene’s intention to provide “a soundtrack to this daydream.”
From the opener on, Paracosm invokes a dream-like state, and lulls the listener into its throws of ethereal ambiance. Birds chirping against fluctuating synthesizers juxtapose the real world with the synthetic, giving the feeling that you’ve entered a different reality while still feeling grounded. This motif is repeated at times throughout the album, and is channeled less explicitly through Greene’s delicate blend of live instruments and electronic musical arrangements on each track.
The songs themselves are classically simple in construction, but the complexities are drawn from Greene’s lucid production. The dreaminess comes from the swooping synths behind guitar leads and digital vocal effects mixed through each of the nine tracks. It’s also obvious that Greene’s emphasis on live drums and percussion were critical to keeping the experience organic. Never do the synthesizers or the live instruments overpower one another, and the soothing, almost whispering vocals compliment while providing tonal guidance to the concept. At times though, throughout the album, the lyrics were lost in the supporting instrumentals, and it took a concerted effort to absorb the message.
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That said- the lyrics visit many aspects of the central album concept of being lost in a daydream. Of the track “It all Feels Right”, Greene told pitchfork.com that it’s “about simple moments when you have a very deep sense that something special is happening, and that it’s fleeting and beautiful, and that it might not happen again,” a theme and a feeling that is relatable to anyone. In the later song “Great Escape”, he chimes “all I want is a place I can be alone,” driving home the concept of solace in being lost inside your dreams. It’s easy to get lost in the album as well, since every song almost imperceptibly blends into the next.
Greene has said that “a lot of the sounds on this record have more of a rock vibe,” which may be true in comparison to other “chillwave” acts, or even his first album Within and Without. There are elements in the live instruments and the structured song construction, but the album never truly plays like a traditional rock album. It closer resembles M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, however more condensed and less bombastic. Paracosm is a relaxing album that temporarily allows you to drift into a sunny reality where you can shut off your cares and enjoy the happiness of now.