Washed Out, “Mister Mellow”

Washed Out
Mister Mellow
STONES THROW
7/10

When Ernest Greene popped up in 2009 with “Feel It All Around,” the Washed Out mastermind inadvertently invited a torrential outpouring of adoration followed by an even more aggressive backlash once the chill turned to frost.

After Greene released two good-not-great LPs on Sub Pop in 2011 and 2013, he disappeared. His music remained, mostly thanks to Portlandia, which featured “Feel It All Around” as its title song and most likely accidentally made fun of the song while trying to make fun of the people that listened to it. The music may have been simple, but it was hard to deny Greene’s songwriting chops. On Mister Mellow, his first for Stones Throw, the songwriting and his instrumentation is sharp and remarkably diverse while remaining delightfully playful.

At first glance, Washed Out and LA’s premier dusty rap label seem like an odd fit. Then again, Mister Mellow is far from anything Greene has ever made. The album discards the low-key sound of his early work, instead favoring a mixtape-style approach, introducing sounds as disparate as grimy lounge jazz on “Floating By,” coked-out disco with “Zonked,” and straightforward beat-scene lurch throughout “Instant Calm.” The album stays cohesive thanks to Greene’s constantly looping vocals, at times sounding more like Panda Bear than the ambivalent crooner we associate with his early EPs and full-lengths. His voice functions like coiled rope: Where it begins and where it ends is a mystery; the beauty is in the shape it makes. The record also features an album-length video component, which, granted, many listeners won’t jump to access, but is still an integral aspect of the album’s aesthetic nevertheless.

Ernest Greene is a new musician on Mister Mellow, and the results are often outstanding. It’s hard to imagine the Washed Out we knew ever making an album this complex, engaging, musically varied, and smart. Then again, we probably never really knew the real Washed Out in the first place.

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