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Washed Out - Notes From a Quiet Life (Album Review)

Thursday, 04 July 2024 Written by Matthew McLister

Photo: Landon Speers

The name Washed Out has long been synonymous with dreamy chillwave and ‘Notes From A Quiet Life’ slips neatly into Ernest Greene’s catalogue. Following a four year absence,  he returns with a typically rich and textured retro synth-pop sound, which is admirable chiefly for its smooth, immaculately polished sonics.

His fifth studio album is “a story about nostalgia and love lost” and was self-produced following his retreat to rural Georgia from Atlanta. Greene’s last album — 2020’s Balearic-influenced ‘Purple Noon’ — embraced radio-friendly pop but lacked anything in the way of sentimentality, but here he forces an emotional pull. Titles such as Say Goodbye, Running Away and Letting Go, for instance, reveal an aspirational theme of fresh starts.

While very mid-tempo and similar throughout in tone, the record still possesses several winning moments. The pillowy synths and reverb-laced vocals on introspective opener Waking Up make you feel like you’re floating among the clouds. 

Say Goodbye then features a more uplifting tone, funky beats and subtle guitar notes to support the rallying lyrics: “If you're strong, I think you'll find / All you need to say goodbye.”

Later, on A Sign, Greene explores early relationship confusion to a smoother R&B synth sound and the OMD-inspired The Hardest Part — which was released alongside an extremely divisive AI video — is another emotive highlight. 

Greene is good at what he does, but by the LP’s second half the lack of variety does become a little wearing. Also, its dearth of propulsive moments is palpable. Only by pulling out a final act of emotional despair on Letting Go does he pull things back around in his favour. 

While ‘Notes from A Quiet Life’ is by no means perfect, the smooth beats and emotive landscapes are largely effective. It won’t compete with his late-‘00s heyday, but Washed Out have delivered another solid chillwave collection worth vibing with.


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