A woozy, mumble-mouthed indie genre turns lush and accessible with this Georgia bedroom producer's full-length debut
Will Govus / Sub Pop
Micro-genres come and go on the Internet, but few have grabbed as much chatter as did the music labeled “chillwave” in 2009. Coined by satirist blogger Hipster Runoff, the term was used to describe a group of geographically disparate, aesthetically similar bands making records high on ‘80s nostalgia, sampled synthesizers drenched in reverb, and murmured, obscure lyrics. The pastoral, formless music held captivating moments of optimistic contemplation, if you weren’t offended by its tendency to fade into the background rather than leap out of speakers.
Of course, plenty of people were offended. The New York Times ran a memorable take-down of the style, calling it “a hedged, hipster imitation of the pop they're not brash enough to make.” Other critics sniped with glee, and the stigma continues to today. “Chillwave is some of the worst, most non-committal music ever made,” rock writer Christopher Weingarten recently told the Broward Palm Beach New Times. “Just the hackiest pile up of 'lol-geddit' Nickelodeon references, tape hiss hiding a total lack of hooks, and a sub-Family Guy level of nostalgia masquerading as emotion.”
So there's something almost defiant about the fact that Ernest Greene, who records under the moniker Washed Out, has now released an unapologetic chillwave debut—even after being at the center of arguments about the genre more than a year ago with the hotly tipped single “Feel It All Around.” But Greene’s Within and Without, which was released today to fairly ecstatic reviews, represents a leap forward for the class of '09-'10: If part of chillwave’s initial appeal was in its sonic replication of the the hazy interior state, Within and Without flips the formula by being acutely aware of its audience.