Washed Out – Mister Mellow

Album Review by Alexander Smail | 27 Jun 2017
  • Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Album title: Mister Mellow
Artist: Washed Out
Label: Stones Throw Records
Release date: 30 Jun

The visual album is not a new concept; in fact, the medium stretches at least as far back as Yellow Submarine in 1968. Over the past few years though, it's become an increasingly prevalent format for artists to release content, allowing for more creative input and – if done right – embellishing the music it accompanies. Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Sampha have all released short films alongside their latest albums, which explore complex themes such as infidelity, racial identity, and the importance of the process over product.

With Mister Mellow, Washed Out’s aspirations are admittedly less ambitious. It’s for the best, as it allows the striking visuals of the thirty-minute piece to take the front seat. Lacking a true overarching narrative, the film plays more like a string of music videos – each with a different director and visual aesthetic, connected only by their kaleidoscopic DIY aesthetic. Intrinsic to this platter style approach, there isn't much flow between scenes and the whole isn’t necessarily equal to the sum of its parts. The experience watching the film is akin to rushing around a gallery ten minutes before it closes, getting a glimpse at everything but barely having time to take it in.

In Mister Mellow’s finest moments though, Washed Out unearths music in the mundane of everyday life. 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it’s all the same day,' he drawls over a prosaic bossa nova instrumental on Floating By, before it melts into reverb-drenched psychedelia and clattering percussion. Visually and aurally, Hard To Say Goodbye is the standout, in which a train journey is transformed into something less tangible, as people and places are superimposed with vibrant sketches of colour atop a bouncy drumbeat. 

The everyday scene of driving around a city is likewise transformed by director Harvey Benschoter for lead single Get Lost. Vintage cutouts from ads and magazines coalesce to invoke the scorching beaches of Miami and Malibu while dense, buoyant piano chords ensure the track’s ubiquity on summer playlists. The problem is that, elsewhere, the album rarely transcends its position as a soundtrack and, after watching the vivid – at times stunning – film it accompanies, listening to Mister Mellow solo feels decidedly less colourful. 

Listen to: Burn Out Blues, Hard To Say Goodbye, Get Lost