I’ve been following the CMJ and Spinitron charts of late, noting the popularity of Washed Out’s “Paracosm” with college radio deejays. The album topped Spinitron for much of August and these first two weeks of September. It only dropped to number two on Spinitron last week, and was still just three spins behind Neko Case’s “The Worst Things Get . . . ” Meanwhile it is number two on CMJ, just behind Ty Segall’s “Sleeper.”
Washed Out is a single person, Ernest Greene, who sometimes works with a band called “Bedroom.” I asked several of my students at UC Santa Cruz, both now graduates, for their perspectives on Greene and/or Greene and his collaborators. Lois Rosson was Program Director for UCSC’s student run radio station KZSC-FM for a spell.
“I consider Washed Out’s album “Within and Without” to be among my favorites,” Rosson wrote back to me:
As far as the genre, I’ve always heard Washed Out classified as ‘Chillwave,’ alongside bands like Neon Indian and Flume. I think people today look at them the same way people in the 90′s looked at Portishead . . . it’s original enough to be interesting, but too sleepy to slip into the mainstream.
Personally, I think of Chillwave as an alternative to certain electronic genres—like House or Dubsteb—for people who genuinely appreciate electronic music. Chillwave doesn’t have the same kind of culture associated with it. People don’t dance around in fuzzy bathing suits to Chillwave, they sit in dark living rooms at house shows and brood.
Recent UCSC graduate Oliver Pinell concurred about the “chillwave” tag. “Chillwave is a sort of blog-invented genre that’s ascribed to a subdued, hazy, heavily processed electronic dance-pop sound,” Pinell explained in an e-mail:
In simpler terms, its dance music that’s very laid-back and dream-like, in contrast to a lot of very aggressive dance music that’s popular these days.
I think its popularity comes from its very lush, ambient and accessible arrangements, equally fitting for both dancing and relaxing. To me, it’s laid-back party music; “cool” music you can put on that fits a variety of social situations, whether partying, hanging out, or what have you. They receive a TON of hype on the internet and on music blogs, which I’m sure strengthens their popularity. Also, their biggest hit “Feel it all Around” is the theme song for the TV show Portlandia, which my roommates (and many college students) watch regularly.
I think they’re [Washed Out and associates] all right. Super accessible and catchy but very effervescent; not a lot of depth, substance, or complexity. I did like their live show when I caught it in 2011.
These responses confirm my personal take on “Paracosm”—sort of Roxy Music meets Hearts of Space. Same tone as Roxy but with a lot less irony—and a lot more Space.