If we ever thought someone deserved a bit more success in life, especially in the UK, we’d point to either the Saturdays (genuinely) or Ernest Greene’s beautiful dream-pop stylings as Washed Out. His first album, Within & Without, is still a bit of a benchmark in the genre; we often find ourselves comparing debut efforts to tracks like Eyes Be Closed or the ever-stunning Amor Fati, only a couple of years old but still lodged so prominently in our heads that they’ve become the default yardstick for anything even remotely fuzzy.
So it’s with anticipation most impatient that we tear into Paracosm. The album starts with a blast of birdsong on Entrance, which quickly segues into It All Feels Right and Don’t Give Up, the two tracks that Greene has previewed already. Immediately, it’s clear that this is a more evolved Washed Out. The swirling synths, the ebb and flow of sound, it’s all still there, but Greene has removed a layer of his trademark distortion; it’s almost as if we’re hearing a slightly more naked Greene, uncluttered by the reverb of his debut.
It works a treat. Don’t Give Up and All I Know are resplendent with melody, completely faultless and everything a Washed Out fan will adore in an instant. Weightless comes across as anything but, adding an elegiac dimension to Greene’s output; meanwhile Paracosm and All Over Now carry you along with them so effortlessly that there’s very little to do but recline and surrender.
Of course, a sophomore effort will always, inevitably, be compared to the debut – we’ll get that out of the way and say that while Paracosm is no Within and Without, it still establishes Washed Out as an inimitable frontrunner in a rapidly saturating genre. If anything, Greene blazed a trail so luminous with his first album that even he himself is still catching up with it, but Paracosm is nonetheless a very worthy lesson on how things should be done.