Ernest Greene's musical outlet Washed Out has quietly become a household name among the more clued-in music cognoscenti since 2009. This is meant in the most literal sense, as Greene's fluorescent and gentle music has became the soundtrack to houses, specifically bedrooms, for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
A quick listen to Washed Out's breakthrough 2011 debut Within and Without provides clues as to why; the album's airy, elegant synth atmospheres and basslines pair perfectly with the early morning sun on ruffled bedsheets. It was just the right record to play at a party or on a drive to the beach with friends you love but hardly get to see. And if the album wasn't spinning on stereos, then it was the wistful sounds of Washed Out's "Feel It All Around" leaking from flickering televisions and laptops as the theme music to sketch show Portlandia.
Whether intentional or not, Greene effortlessly captured so many feelings often associated with youth – lust, desire, elation, anxiety, wonder – in a sonic medium that was both easy and charmingly catchy. But perhaps more important than the shamelessly romantic undertones or inviting melodies was the fact that there was something distinctively personal and honest about Washed Out's music – maybe in the imperfect home recordings, or the melancholic vocals – that allowed for Greene to go from bedroom-pop to bedroom-popstar in a matter of months. Appropriately, this was music crafted in a period of life drift for Greene, fresh out of library school with a degree but no job, back at his parents' house, recording his first songs as Washed Out and posting them online in between sending out résumés and waiting for something to happen.
Six years on from his debut, Greene's newest album, Mister Mellow, continues the artist's investigations of the aforementioned themes but with a finer-tuned, deeper approach. This is not to imply that Washed Out's early work lacks merit in comparison, but instead that Greene has honed his artistry simply through experience and exploration.
Mister Mellow was released on the Stones Throw label, home to unquestioned beatmaking greats like J Dilla and Madlib. The album is a testament to trying new things, which innovative tracks like "Hard to Say Goodbye" and "I've Been Daydreaming My Entire Life" illustrate with ease. Combining influences ranging from Sade to Air France to Earth Wind & Fire, Mister Mellow may still shine in a party or bedroom setting, but with fewer rules and limitations. This is a youthful yet more mature "everywhere record," graced with the catchy accessibility that Washed Out has become famous for. Now Greene is leaving the house and giving his new songs a live airing, complete with interactive visual displays unique to every show. Let's get lost.