In hindsight it is obvious that Ernest Greene's debut EP as Washed Out, Life of Leisure, was an important release. For me it marked the beginning of the crossover of chill wave - one of the early releases to encapsulate a new emerging sound. For Washed Out at least, full blown album Within and Without is probably even more important. This year we have already seen Toro y Moi's sound buckle and change under the pressure of increased ears, follow up Underneath the Pine responding to the challenge of staying fresh within a new genre by effectively abandoning it. The world is moving on, what will Washed Out do to avoid becoming washed up?
First things first: Washed Out isn't abandoning anything. Within and Without is faithful to the sound popularised on the first album. A progression of sorts maybe, but whereas Toro y Moi seemingly threw away everything, the kitchen sink and the plumbing, this feels very similar to the music of Life of Leisure.
Opening with single 'Eyes Be Closed' makes sense - it feels like a bridge to this album, fresh and sounding like the sea and sunshine. Where Within and Without pushes things though is towards larger, more memorable melodies and a greater emotional diversity. 'Eyes Be Closed' and 'Amor Fati' are examples of the larger tunes. The latter almost feels like one big chorus of layered vocals and big keys and for the first time it feels like Greene has made music that will stick in the mind and keep the listener coming back.
There also feels like there is more of an arc to the album - the first half all starry-eyed and overwhelmed before things begin to cool down at midway point 'Far Away', which soundtracks that moment when the feeling wears off and reality sets in. The comedown really peaks on the title track - the sunshine and good vibes seemingly run out with the holiday money, the beat plods on home knowing that the best has probably already passed.
Let us hope for Washed Out at least it hasn't. Within and Without is a welcome release and it feels more sophisticated than anything on Life of Leisure, but the cards are still being kept close to the chest. Whilst Toro y Moi throws too much away, perhaps Greene hasn't thrown away enough: I can't help but long to hear Washed Out take a few more risks.