When one gets asked the question, “what kind of music do you listen to?” typical genre answers like rock, classical, or indie don’t seem to provide much clarity. In an effort to define our increasingly diffuse tastes, micro-genres like post-hardcore, witch house, PBR&B, and “chillwave” have become 21st century touchstones for talking about music.
No micro-genre has received as much attention as chillwave, and no chillwave artist has come to define the term itself quite like Ernest Greene’s Washed Out. The project began as a mere hobby, with Greene recording his synth creations at his parent’s house and posting them onto the internet. In an age where music fans are hungry for the “next thing,” it didn’t take long for hypnotic songs such as “Feel It All Around” to make their way onto influential music blogs and year-end best-of lists.
While Washed Out is a hot artist championed by the new music intelligentsia, is there any real substance behind the hype? With this summer’s Within and Without (his first full length), Greene has put aside the “just hype” label for good. With warm, spacious synth tones, layered vocals, and head-nodding beats, Washed Out’s music is pure pop bliss. Not just traditional pop, Washed Out’s songs have the flow of a great DJ set. For instance, lead single off Within and Without, “Eyes Be Closed,” bubbles along for the first few minutes before a sudden hush takes over. The sound steadily creeps its way back up before sirens call forth a tropical drum fill recalling Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” barreling the track into an ecstatic drop. It’s these kinds of moments that keep fans coming back for repeated listens.
Not only writing atmospheric tunes, Washed Out is part of a movement. With other like-minded acts such as headliner Cut Copy, he is reclaiming pop music from its current reputation as throwaway Top 40. Listening to Washed Out’s dense textures and glistening crescendos on a good pair of headphones lies in stark contrast to the static mix coming out of popular radio. Washed Out shows us that pop merits serious listening and discussion alongside of “serious” genres like indie folk and experimental rock.
Even if you’re coming to the show for headliner Cut Copy, make it a priority to check out fast-rising opener Washed Out. This may be the last time he’ll be opening for anybody.
- Dan Hofman