Washed Out - "Amor Fati" (MP3)
Is there a more romantic image in indie music today than that of the gifted upstart toiling alone in his bedroom for weeks, only to emerge from among the piles of dirty laundry to deliver to the world an incredible album? The notion of Do It Yourself is hardly new – garage rock has been a robust genre since the early 1960s – but it seems to be an increasingly commonplace narrative. Technology has allowed for a degree of artistic autonomy that has revolutionized the form. From Mike Skinner to Noah Lennox, Ariel Pink to Merril Garbus, the tools now available to a talented mind has transformed the typically collaborative art of popular music into something closer to the classical methodology: just an artist’s vision, some nifty gadgets, and the result of their combination, a great work. Who needs a band anyway?
Under the moniker Washed Out, Ernest Greene has already gained notice by employing this methodology on a spattering of EPs and singles. On at least one occasion, the superb single “Feel it All Around,” he has hinted at brilliance. Washed Out’s full-length debut solidifies Greene’s talent, though it skews heavily towards proving he is a formidable congregator, rather than an innovator. Within and Without is a thoroughly of-the-moment album, synthesizing the novelties and fashions of modern synthpop (or, shudder, that unfortunately named genre that refuses to go away, chillwave) over the course of a lovely and gripping 40 minutes.
Greene has found his voice by diluting it to the point of haze. His vocals swim among the ripples of ambient tones, while rapping percussion and tuneful synth lines keep everything in order. Melodies wind and widen, four or five minutes long. Within and Without is a work of contrasts: textures versus hooks, drone versus dance, sensuality versus aggressiveness. Its two best tracks, “Amor Fati” and “Far Away,” tip closer to accessibility, but their emotional impact remain impressionistic. But Within and Without succeeds because Greene knows how to maintain a fine balance. “Before” and “Soft” come perilously close to being lounge club throwaways before Greene rescues them with his impressive popcraft.
If every debut had to be “auspicious,” Within and Without would be a disappointment. But expectations shouldn’t swing between the poles of genius and refuse. Within and Without is what the churlish would just brush-off as satisfying, and the grateful (like me) would call a work of immense competence. It’s an album to be applauded, if not hailed.
Washed Out - Within and Without (Full Album)
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