HYPE CHECK: Washed Out Goes From Depressing to Slightly Danceable In the Span of One Strange Santos Party House Show

Words and Photos by Andrew Parks

The Artist and Their Latest Release: Washed Out, Life of Leisure (Mexican Summer)

What’s Been Said: “Leave the slippery musicology behind. ‘Feel It All Around’ is a deliciously unbalanced track, starting into the groove right off the bat and unexpectedly fading out at the end. The unusual compositional style is tailor-made to entice you to spin it again, and [Ernest] Greene’s little gem does little to convince you otherwise.” – Pitchfork (Best New Music)

“Impossibly gorgeous pop that mixes up woozy synthesizers, droney shoegaze textures and funky, sometimes danceable beats. [Ernest] Greene has only released one 12-inch and a cassette on small independent labels but he’s already getting solid buzz in the music blogosphere, thanks to killer tunes like ‘You’ll See It,’ which evokes French synth-pop group M83 and ‘Feel It All Around,’ which features soaring, angelic vocal chorales.” – Rolling Stone

“Not sure if this genre is ’emerging’ or if it is only just becoming ‘properly monetized’ now that there is a ‘demand for it.’ Do yall prefer ‘Neon Indian’ or ‘Memory Cassette’ or some other chillwave band? I feel like Washed Out might be my favourite chill wave artist, so far, but Neon Indian might have the ‘strongest brand’/’highest possibility of becoming a legacy indie artist.'” – Hipster Runoff

Our Take: Remember how songs used to simmer in MTV’s ‘Buzz Bin’? Washed Out is a prime example of how the game’s changed; how an unassuming guy from Georgia can pack a mid-sized club based solely on loosely-shared MP3s from a digital EP and a 200-copy cassette. At 1 a.m. on a Monday night, no less. And what do you know? The songs are actually good, a barbiturate-popping mix of bleached beats, morose melodies, and synth lines that fill the room like a Festival of Lights. No doubt about it: We’ll be snagging Mexican Summer’s limited vinyl version later this month, although it’d be nice if the guy could learn how to SPEAK UP when he’s singing. (What’s with all these ‘glo-fi’ people hiding behind a purple haze in their songs? See also: Nite Jewel. It’s like they don’t want us to hear how lame their lyrics are.)

As for Washed Out’s live show…

Hypeworthy? You’ve probably heard how off-key Ernest Greene was throughout his Santos set, a matter that was not helped by a backing track or an unnecessary sideman that simply sang the same limp lines. The other problem with the early part of Washed Out’s performance was his decision to front load the set list with sleepy shoegaze numbers. If you’d never heard his music before, you might think he was trying to be a mid-fi version of Ulrich Schnauss–gorgeous and grandiose, but a bit, well, boring. We somehow managed to avoid hearing Washed Out before Monday night, so it was hard not to think, “Have these kids–i.e. the Facebook Generation around us–ever even heard of the following: Boards of Canada, Air, Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, Slowdive…hell, even My Bloody Valentine?” Because elements of them all creep into this music, and in a way that’s much more confident and creative.

But then Greene’s buddy left and we were suddenly plunged his version of dance music, which seems to be inspired by minor-keyed IDM compilations, Knight Rider reruns, and the instrumental version of “Thriller.” Very neon, indeed, but haven’t people compared this emerging glo-fi ‘scene’ to a low budget take on Daft Punk? Bloggers, please. As trendy as Daft Punk appear to be these days, they’re responsible for several undeniably classic albums–music that’ll stand the test of time. Artists like Washed Out have years to go before they’ll be able to deliver killer singles and genuine anthems.

And that’s okay–we don’t expect them to blow us away just yet. And you shouldn’t either.