After Portlandia, Washed Out trades sampling for songwriting: Washed Out might be the most perfect band name ever conceived: It captures the gist of Ernest Greene's music in two simple words. Bright, explosive hues could have easily ruled his synth-driven pop, but he takes a different tack, toning down his songs by surrounding them with liquidlike reverb. His sound is wrapped in a chewed-up, low-key feel that turns otherwise summery melodies blurry and ambient. These muted hues give a sense of sleepy, distant nostalgia. Washed Out is such a fitting name that if you added "pop" right after it, the phrase could be a good substitute for "chillwave," the blog-bred subgenre Washed Out and contemporaries like Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi have been tied to. The fact that Greene's project carries some name recognition is at least partly because of the hype that accompanied the rapid rise of chillwave in late 2009 and early 2010. But that's not to say that the material isn't fascinating in itself.
Back when he was in high school, the Georgia- and South Carolina-based musician messed around with jazz, going for experiments like creating a backing track, looping it onto a cassette, and then playing over it. In college, he tinkered with instrumental hip-hop. Eventually, he landed on more structured pop, which aped personal favorites like Radiohead. Then, in 2009, he made some songs in his bedroom using a mic and electronic equipment, posting them on MySpace under the moniker Washed Out. His initial boost in profile came when a London-based blog called No Pain in Pop, which had become interested in Toro Y Moi, spied Washed Out on that band's MySpace friends list and decided to cover Washed Out. That inspired other bloggers to do the same, and soon, e-mail after e-mail was tumbling into Greene's inbox. "Over the course of a month or so, I went from relative obscurity to having blogs write about the songs on a daily basis," he says. "I had maybe like 80 friends on MySpace and within a month, it was probably a thousand." Soon, the buzz translated into invitations to perform live -- and while he turned them down at first, his self-confidence increased and the offers got too good to deny... [continue reading]