A rewarding, highly personal experience...

It’s been three years since Ernest Greene released his last Washed Out album ‘Mister Mellow’. On ‘Mister Mellow’ Greene was experimenting with his sound more than on his previous two releases, with the songs exuding a hazy, playful vibe. It was the musical equivalent of walking into a club after a few drinks - you are euphorically woozy and when and the music just makes you smile. His new album ‘Purple Noon’ feels like the morning after. Everything isn’t as fun; some stuff went down you now have to sort out…

‘Purple Noon’ opens with ‘Too Late’. This is a downbeat beast. The beats are crisp. Greene’s vocals are full of remorse and longing as he laments about a past relationship that crumbled before his eyes but was unable to stop. This is a theme that Greene carries on throughout ‘Purple Noon’. It’s a musical version of the advance of the tide while making sandcastles. You know what is going to happen. You can briefly build a moat but eventually the tide wins and the sandcastle vanishes before your eyes. Making you question if you could have done more.

This is the main theme of ‘Purple Noon’. Could I have done more? In a perverse way, no. If Greene had, we wouldn’t have this sublime collection of songs. ’Don’t Go’ is one of the standout moments on the album and exemplifies his song writing prowess. It smoulders with regret under shimmering melodies. Throughout Greene delivers one of his most impassioned and mature vocals performances to date. Just over halfway through, after a brief instrumental section where the drums are built up to a glorious crescendo, Greene’s vocals explode from the speakers. You can hear the longing in his voice. It’s genuinely moving. You want to offer him a hug. But Greene doesn’t want, or need, our pity. These are cautionary tales. At times we should be making notes.

At its best ‘Purple Noon’ is a vibrant electro pop album that shimmers in neon beauty. The melodies are captivating, the harmonies feel like they drift above the speakers like a poppy miasma and the basslines have enough bite to them that they don’t sound cliché. At its worst ‘Purple Noon’ is the backing track to a break-up on Made in Chelsea. You know the scene. Of course, this is being slightly facetious, but there is an element of truth to it.

The main issues with the album are its lack of variation. On previous albums, especially ‘Mister Mellow’, Washed Out mixed it up a bit. Slow ballads, faster tempo tracks, sad songs, and happy ones. Here there isn’t a lot of change in tempo or texture. ‘Purple Noon’ shows Greene finding some musical maturity. While the album might not be as strong as his previous releases, we’re starting to see the real Greene which far more rewarding. Now we can see you. Don’t go. 

7/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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