The last time we heard from Ernest Greene a.k.a. Washed Out, it was 2011. His debut, Within and Without, was the embodiment of the chill wave movement. With his sophomore effort, Paracosm--a title that refers to a surreal, otherworldly dimension--we are taken to new depths of escapism from our everyday lives. Continuing the chill wave motif, Greene creates a musical backdrop that may be 2013's only source of salvation. Largely produced in Atlanta by Ben H. Allen, the style of Paracosm is an excellent way to transition into the late summer/early fall languor.
Opening with the birdlike sounds of "Entrance," we are taken into a magical Garden of Eden where thoughts of the fruit of the tree of knowledge never even occur to us. A harp signals a heavenly sound that segues into "It All Feels Right," where we are welcomed fully into Paracosm with Greene's soothing voice. "Don't Give Up," an encouraging title in and of itself, carries on the theme of relaxation and good will with a somewhat more island/tropical sounding beat. Lyrics like "Even though we're far apart/We've come so close and it feels so right" emphasize the fact that Washed Out is incapable of seeing any downsides.
"Weightless" makes you feel just that. Ethereal and transcendent, the instruments on this track make it one of the most standout offerings on Paracosm. As usual, Greene's often indecipherable lilt renders it practically impossible to understand what he's actually saying, but before you can realize this, he's already lured you in and hypnotized you. "All I Know" follows with the "Like A Prayer"-esque lyrics: "I hear your voice/Hear my call/I feel the weight of the world/Can't brace myself for the fall." Hypnagogic, yet upbeat, "All I Know" is definitely the song you want playing when you have an epiphany.
The seamless transition into "Great Escape" (not to be confused with the seminal Blur album) is vaguely akin to being in that The Sound of Music scene when Julie Andrews is bursting into "The Hills Are Alive." Alternating between serene-sounding notes and harsher, more noticeable undertones, there is something truly visceral and honest about "Great Escape." The title track, "Paracosm," lives up to its meaning of a dreamlike state. With a strong harp presence (I'm so glad someone thought to bring it back), Washed Out takes us on a magical journey that's far trippier than sitting through Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland.
"Falling Back" is another peaceful track that may induce strong feelings of lucidity. Once again, Washed Out's voice is barely coherent, but you get the sense that he must be telling you something positive. Concluding the album (on the non-bonus track version) is "All Over Now," one of the slower tempoed songs on Paracosm. Repeating the mantra, "It's all over now," you get an unavoidable sense of simultaneous calmness and sadness. But for those of you with the bonus track version, it's not quite "all over now," as the album still has "Pull You Down" to provide you with solace. The most divergent from the rest of the tracks with its Western movie-like sultriness, "Pull You Down" is placid but self-assured. What one takes away from this final track--and all of Paracosm--is not only that Greene's talents as a musician have further improved, but also that living in a remote city (Athens) has clearly fine-tuned his ability to create and live in his own musical world.