Sometimes you just need to get away. Each day has its way of piling the pressure on each of us, building to the point when it feels like the only logical thing we can do is escape. Now that we are faced with the reality that it’s almost impossible to physically get away, one alternative is to put on your best headphones and deep dive into the records that allow you to feel some solace. Ernest Greene has been crafting a certain type of escapism as Washed Out since his debut full length Within and Without dropped in 2011. Since then Greene has gone on an exploratory journey through psychedelia with 2013’s Paracosm and experimental hip hop on 2017’s Mister Mellow. Now the Atlanta, Georgia based songwriter and producer is back with his most “accessible” album and a return to the hazy, dreamy pop that kicked off his career. Purple Noon, an homage to magic hour vistas and a simpler pace, couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. While you can’t jump on a plane, or more appropriately a time machine, to experience what the Mediterranean coast of the late 1960s was like, the album does its best to transform your living room into exactly what that must’ve felt like.
Purple Noon is infused with the type of romance that was a staple of 80s smooth pop and R&B. The easiest touchstone to spot here would be Sade. Greene writes melodies that are clearly inspired by the thoughtful tenderness of that great singer and songwriter. “Too Late” sets the tone immediately. The swirling synths firmly place us at dusk, the sun setting and the sky ablaze with purple and gold. You can feel the heat start to settle and hear the water gently lapping up against the sand. The words aren’t always legible but their melodic structure is front and centre. It comes off as an echo of a relationship, a kiss that happened at the perfect moment and the yearning associated with trying to recapture that feeling. Throughout the running time of Purple Noon we are treated to blissfully, chorus drenched guitar on “Game Of Chance”, the minimal tropical grooves of “Face Up” and on album highlight “Paralyzed”, Greene’s take on smooth 80s R&B that, while capturing the essence of the genre, still manages to feel completely contemporary. It all washes onto itself, a blend of mechanical beats juxtaposed with the warmest of analogue synths and Greene’s very human vocal delivery that is absolutely bursting with sincerity.
Inspired by another place in another time, Purple Noon is a transformative piece of work. The songs are some of the more traditional that Greene has ever written and that work goes a long way to create some very relatable moments within the album’s dreamy vapour. While we aren’t able, even in the best of times, to jump on a plane, escape from the city and the stark, somewhat blinding reality we find ourselves in, it seems like we can count on Washed Out to dull some of those sharp edges and enhance our very real world with the right amount of colour and space to escape for just a few brief moments.
review by Adam Fink
Purple Noon is now available via Sub Pop
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