Washed Out – “New Theory” (Life of Leisure EP)

– by Ben Bishop

If you haven’t heard the story you need to. A young man moves home in anticipation of his marriage in order to save money and look for jobs. Returning to the ancestral manse on an idyllic peach orchard outside Macon, GA he spends his days shooting résumés into the ether. At night, when his parents have gone to sleep and the pastoral landscape buzzes placidly with cicadas he retires to his room and works on a personal recording, just for the pleasure of it. These recording sessions end up being pieced together into an EP which, originally available only in cassette form, wends it’s way through vague channels and the king-making hands of people far cooler than you until the young man becomes an internet sensation and is offered tours, secures a recording deal, and is generally fawned over.

The young man’s name is Ernest Greene, though he records and performs as Washed Out. His single “New Theory” justifies all the hype as one of two tracks (along with “Feel It All Around”) on his Life of Leisure EP that both anchor that recording and serve as the perfect gateway drug for introducing the uninitiated into the thrills of a subgenre which Greene and Alan Palomo of Neon Indian are arguably responsible for popularizing.

It’s a genre with no agreed upon name. Dream-beat? Chill-wave? Glo-fi? Attempts at finding a handle that sticks bring to mind masturbatory dreams as much as music. And maybe that’s fitting, as the lush synths and gently driving beats evoke a kind of post-coital (or post bong-rip) bliss. A simple three note progression descends in an endless loop with Greene, sounding like a native-English-speaking version of Peter Morén of Peter, Bjorn and John croons vague, eminently palatable abstractions over the top (“You’ll want to leave your path,” “You’re falling down to us,” etc.). His lilting delivery skips across those three notes on the verses and then transforms even more fully into an animé-ready praise song on the righteousness of kicking back and letting go via a chorus comprised of nothing but ephemeral do-do-do’s. It’s the perfect example of a song that sounds flimsy at best on paper, yet proves an endlessly renewable source of enjoyment when heard.

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