Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Washed Out - Life of Leisure

Dream-pop. Chillwave. Whatever you want to call it, this has been the year for lo-fi, 80’s inspired, and incredibly catchy music. Washed Out, the aptly chosen pseudonym for former South Carolinian Ernest Greene, is yet another artist who has transformed traditional electronic music into dreamy pop that sounds both new and old at the same time (i.e., Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, Nite Jewel, etc.). However, on his EP – “Life of Leisure” – Greene establishes a voice that will most likely resonate long after this musical trend fades. The record can certainly be enjoyable on a “chillwave” or “dream-pop” basis, but its pop underpinnings – arresting hooks, impressive and consistent harmonies, relatable lyrics of longing, etc. – are remarkably unique, or at the very least just damn good, setting Washed Out apart from his numerous contemporaries. Tracks like “Feel It All Around” and “New Theory”, for instance, are indeed dreamy, but they are also solid pieces of music that are powerful and accessible from beginning to end. That is, Greene’s techniques here are not novelties: the effects of his songs are not contingent upon elements related to musical fads, nor are they unnecessarily dense and cumbersome to prove his distinct prowess. The driving beats and beautifully vague harmonies of album highlight “You’ll See It” illustrate Washed Out’s current sound best. The track reveals a playful sound that exploits or at least makes use of the recent fascination with retro dream-pop, but it is so infectious, stunning, and surprisingly haunting that one cannot help but notice that Greene is in a league of his own. “Life of Leisure” is also evidence that he has room to mature and develop his sound, but unlike some musicians, I am actually interested in watching him grow.


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