Washed Out - Within and Without

It’s hard to say if the term “chillwave” actually means anything. In the age of countless one-person bands with oceans on their MySpaces, the term’s been applied to just about anybody chipping away at a hazy, nostalgic bedroom style, a style that appeared easy enough to replicate, received a ton of attention fast, has helped create dozens of forgettable dorm-recordists. Thing is, even the most creatively bankrupt or deadlocked aesthetics usually include rare birds, musicians able to move beyond common denominators and create something personal, even exciting. As far as “chillwave” goes, even if you’re not a fan, it’s been Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian. Now, after two promising EPs and the enjoyable Within And Without, Washed Out, aka Atlanta-based Ernest Greene, is also taking things to a different level.

From the in-focus boots-knocking cover art onward, Greene’s full-length debut finds the multi-instrumentalist offering a more mature, refined (and defined) sensibility. The nine songs were recorded with Ben Allen, who co-produced Merriweather Post Pavillion, Halcyon Digest, and St. Elsewhere, creating a bigger, spacious sound — without losing the rickety, homegrown “haze.”

You’ve heard “You And I,” the sexy, Caroline Polachek-guesting piece that flows/feels like “older” “Feel It All Around”-style Washed Out (only bigger). More recently Sub Pop unveiled “Eyes Be Closed,” the psychedelic pop whirl that opens the album with the sonic equivalent of a summer breeze. Outside of closer “A Dedication,” a song that showcases a new angle for Greene, the rest of the album feels a bit shadowier, but just as warm. “Eyes Be Closed” fades into the darker “Echoes,” which makes good use of ’80s ballad sound effects and an after-hours neon-colored vibe (for some reason, “You Belong To The City” comes mind). The next track, “Amor Fati,” evokes the opener’s easy, Caribou-esque feel. From there, the collection maintains a similar, gauzy haze, one that easily lulls and bleeds together, but also provides a steady atmospheric hum that helps highlight or shine a light on even the subtlest shifts: The bigger Kraut-funk drums and AM-radio fuzz of “Soft,” “Far Away”’s slower, bleaker pace, the stately phased pitch/sampled vocal repetitions of “Before,” the title track’s M83-sorta instrumental arc paired with almost whispered vocals, and etc. It’s like finding your way along a patchwork quilt via the different textures of the fabrics; the stitches match but lead you toward different patterns.

Which brings us back to that closer, the brief piano-manned “A Dedication.” Here, Greene showcases a straight-up singer-songwriter side, one where his voice rises above the effects and din, suggesting he’d be able to strip away the production and create a collection of a different sort. The guy can actually sing! Even without that exclamation, though, Greene’s proven he has more in common with Caribou’s Dan Snaith or Bradford Cox than with those faceless kids armed with boomboxes, imitation LSD, and cheap-sounding synths. Kudos.

Within And Without is out 7/12 via Sub Pop

Comments (21)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • But on another note, even though I don’t really care about chillwave or Washed Up or Toro y Moi or Neon Indian or any of that crap, I’m glad to see a return to the more comprehensive, detailed reviews that made Premature Evaluation cool to begin with.

    • No, actually, you are not. Life of Leisure is one of the few pieces of music I would actually take the time to argue is flawless. Which is not to say it is the best album ever or whatever, but it is absolutely worthy of distinction. Listening to “You and I” is also more than enough evidence to suggest that while “chillwave” may have been stillborn, Washed Out is alive and well.

      • Agreed. “Life of Leisure” is amazing. Read the iTunes comments on the album too, the majority has a common compass: the album takes them away, to another place, another time. You might have to be a bit of synesthete to “get” that kind of music though.

  2. It’s not 1992. Why are you reviewing a record that drops in July in May? I want to hit Amazon NOW to buy it but I can’t. Doubt I will remember to get this 2 months from now.

  3. I’m also glad that the more comprehensive review returned. This one is particular good.


    The cool thing about Premature Evaluations are when they’re done in albums that have actually leaked, IMHO. Not on albums you have received a promo copy of.

    Either way, nice review.

  4. Life of Leisure absolutely defined my last summer. Hope I get my hands on this in time for beach season.

  5. Someone leak this to the interwebs already!!! Why are you always holding out on the good stuff, Stereogum? Seeing albums that haven’t been released yet in your Heavy Rotations is just a tease. And I know the only reason you do it is so you can say you recommended it before Pitchfork does!

  6. Where can i listen? Loved the Leisure EP and dying to hear this with my ears

  7. I can honestly say i first heard Washed Out on Stereogum before ever noticing anything about them on Pitchfork..

  8. Fun Fact: the people on the cover are actually deep in prayer about an upcoming shirts v skins basketball game.

  9. i’m also glad this version of premature evaluation is back. it seemed a little contradictory calling it ‘premature’ and then giving it a score. this review has just made me so much more excited for this.

  10. woozefa  |   Posted on May 6th, 2011 +3

    ‘you and ‘ is my favorite track of the year. i cannot wait for this album.

  11. i like washed out. however, i can seem to get over how much of his success relies on blatant samples: http://www.whosampled.com/sample/view/12990/Washed%20Out-Feel%20It%20All%20Around_Gary%20Low-I%20Want%20You/

    and the new track “Eyes Be Closed” is remarkably similar to Moby’s Porcelain. you’ll be hearing a mashup for show.

  12. Yeah, that does kindof take away from it a little bit–but it’s still just so, so good.

  13. However it was made, I really enjoyed the track. I learned a new word here. Chillwave. Hmmm….

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