With almost 40 million plays on Spotify alone, there’s probably little chance that you haven’t heard of Washed Out. His song “Feel it All Around” provided the theme song for the hit TV show Portlandia and has been used in numerous commercials. Yes, you’ve definitely heard him, but we haven’t heard from him in a while, four years to be exact. Washed Out’s last album Paracosm was released in 2013.
Washed Out is a one-man band helmed by Ernest Greene. That’s Ernest Greene, the thirty-something producer-musician, not the Ernest Green from the Little Rock Nine, nor Ernest Greene the porn director/actor (these all came up when Googling his name).
Ernest Greene grew up in southern Georgia and has self-admittingly always been a bit rebellious. While most of his peers were listening to country rock (The Allman Brothers are from his hometown) he was in his bedroom, experimenting with sounds in Fruity Loops on his computer. He released a couple of EPs in 2009 and to his surprise, unintentionally pioneered the Chillwave movement. A contract with Sub Pop was soon to follow, and his debut album, Within and Without, was released in 2011. Insta-fame was weird for Greene, who said music had just been a way to escape and deal with depression, which shows because Within and Without played like musical Prozac.
Never a fan of labels, when Greene started recording his sophomore album two years later, he tried his hardest to rebel against the digital reverb sounds of Chillwave that he had become the poster boy for. This time around he used more analog equipment, adding a guitar, drums and a Mellotron to his soundscape. The vocals came more forward, and the beats and lyrics had that summertime BBQ kind of vibe. Where Within and Without was an album to listen to alone, 2013’s Paracosm was an album to share.
Four years later, and now on the Stones Throw Record label, it appears that Washed Out isn’t trying hard to prove who he is anymore. The self-mocking title Mister Mellow pokes fun at the Chillwave movement, yet it’s clear from the music he’s also embracing it. The album itself is a great mix of Within and Without and Paracosm, and sounds like the Chillwave of Toro Y Moi mixed with the electro-pop of Neon Indian, two acts who he no debatably influenced.
Greene’s new album is a mix of danceable and upbeat tracks, like “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye,” “Zonked” and “Burn Out Blues” which has an 8-bit esthetic mixed with a 90’s lounge beat. Yet, on the other hand, there are songs like “I’ve Been Daydreaming My Entire Life” and “Instant Calm” which have a really downbeat feel. Several of the tracks like “Easy Does It” and “Down and Out” are really short, more like sketches or vibes than actual songs. Greene also uses a lot of dialogue samples, giving the album a throwback feel.
Washed Out released a video album posing as a Youtube show hosted by Charlie (Kyle Mooney of SNL fame), the strung out host of The Mister Mellow Show, who’s guest is, you guessed it, Washed Out. Throughout the album Charlie pops in the corner of your screen, making hilariously bizarre remarks. He intermittently interrupts the show to attempt to interview Washed Out, yet somehow he never really gets a question out. Each video on the album is done by a different artist or director. Many are animated intricate collages, heavy inspired by Dada movement of the early 20th century, while others are claymation sketches of lonely city life.
The video closes with Charlie giving his track-by-track review of the new album to Ernest Greene, as the two sit awkwardly on bean bags. Spoiler alert – he approves and so do we.
Check out the video album below: