Published Aug 07, 2020After branching out on 2017's beat-driven Mister Mellow, with its hip-hop influences and largely instrumental soundscapes, Washed Out has returned to his comfort zone with Purple Noon. He's not only back with his previous label, Sub Pop, but he's back to crafting reverb-blurred hypnagogic pop full of summery, sunburnt beauty.
Much like he's done for the past decade, songwriter Ernest Greene flirts with the chillwave sounds he's known for without too blatantly repeating himself. The vocals are a little clearer and more prominent than they were on 2009's zeitgeist-capturing Life of Leisure EP, and the the synths are bright and sparkling rather than gritty and lo-fi. But the haze remains: "Too Late" and "Reckless Desires" are blissful daydreams full of elongated syllables and rippling, aquatic rhythms. Purple Noon was apparently inspired by the Mediterranean coastline, which is fitting given the way classic-era chillwave was closely associated with the beach.
There are some modest surprises scattered throughout the 10-song tracklist. "Time to Walk Away" takes inspiration from Latin rhythms and electro-reggae, while "Game of Chance" is an acoustic ballad with a Spanish guitar solo. But even in the case of these outliers, the ever-present fog of reverb means that they sound unmistakably like Washed Out.
Given that the chillwave craze only lasted a year or two, this is another solid outing from an artist who has turned a flash-in-the-pan trend into a deep discography. (Sub Pop)