The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Washed Out – ‘Purple Noon’ (Sub Pop)


In a sentence:

‘Purple Noon’ sees Ernest Greene taking few risks with his Washed Out sound, but the results are nonetheless pleasing.

It’s been more than a decade since the peak of chillwave, the short-lived movement that exposed Washed Out to an ever-evolving world of musical trends. But this project of songwriter and producer Ernest Greene had successfully escaped a niche internet obsession that was gone within the blink of an eye. Over the years, Washed Out has released multiple records that each subtly flexed different muscles, but never quite left the realm of ultra-kaleidoscopic indie pop.

Greene’s previous effort Mister Mellow was a release on Stones Throw Records that saw him highlight funkier musical textures as well as a full visual album. But now, Purple Noon sees itself both back on Washed Out’s previous label Sub Pop, but also returning to some earlier stylings. Purple Noon draws many sonic comparisons to Greene’s 2011 debut Within And Without. Take tracks from that record like ‘Amor Fati’ and with some updated instrumentation, it would fit perfectly with most tracks off of Purple Noon.

But even though there’s a throwback Washed Out sound, Greene still gives some distinguishable modern flair to the production of this record. ‘Paralyzed’ definitely shows some hip-hop influences, and makes me wonder how great it would sound if Greene were to produce for a rapper. This dreamy and lush production is satisfying, but it’s layered over songwriting that’s underwhelming at many points. It’s this contrast that makes it difficult to see how this artist is progressing.

Music video for ‘Too Late’

The record kicks off with the single ‘Too Late’. With one of the most memorable choruses, it’s a key track that shows why this record conjures up feelings similar to the debut. After that comes three other tracks that were released pre-album, with ‘Time To Walk Away’ being another highlight. But afterwards, we start to lose steam. The songs that follow don’t feel as strong as previous. For example, ‘Game Of Chance’ utilizes plucky acoustic guitars and has a lovely ending refrain, but it doesn’t evolve much over the course of the track. As interesting as certain elements of this song are, it’s cancelled out by tune that doesn’t seem to stick.

This string of songs is broken up by ‘Don’t Go’, a track that has some interesting builds and swells of sound. It helps to keep interest in the back half of the record and is strikingly beautiful when the chorus hits. The final track ‘Haunt’ is one of the most dynamically interesting on the record and an overall appropriate finish. At the end of the album, it’s clear that Purple Noon is mostly interested in sound, mood, and vibe (as overused as that term is). We have a record that’s pleasant and unchallenging, not throwing surprises as much as it’s throwing pretty sounds and melodies.

In a way, Washed Out has adapted to the average modern music listener. These tracks capture a vibe that can be thrown onto a playlist using buzzwords like “chill”, “summer”, and “breezy”. Although more ambitious songwriting and a bigger stylistic risk would serve Ernest Greene well in the future, Purple Noon is a definite thirst-quencher if what you’re looking for is laid back, easy-to-enjoy synth pop. (6/10) (Andy Ciardella)

Listen to Purple Noon by Washed Out here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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