Album Review: Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

By Jack O’Donovan

Following the release of some highly successful EPs and singles with Transgressive Records, there are a lot of expectations resting on Arlo Parks’ debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams. Expectations that she delivers on. Arlo Parks has gained critical acclaim for her mature and moving songwriting, and ultimately her astonishing ability to communicate. Parks invites you into an intimate conversation about what caring looks like. The album is charged with hope and cathartic brilliance and it comes at a time when the world needs it most. Collapsed in Sunbeams is filled with the compassion and optimism, needed in this time of pain and isolation.

The tone of the album is set by Parks with 50 seconds of conversational poetry, rich with the intangible emotion which she explores throughout. Her voice is perfectly twinned with the melodic elegance of her regular collaborator, Gianluca Buccellati. Although a very musically eclectic album, it’s unmistakable groove runs throughout. ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Eugene’ soothingly drift along in a soulful trance – balancing elements of commercial pop with subtle arrangements and complex lyricism. The production of the album allows her to shine through, creating a warmth to accompany her voice to, rather than overpower it.

The album is charged with hope and cathartic brilliance and it comes at a time when the world needs it most.

Parks prides herself in having ‘superpowered empathy”, she uses this to develop a unique soulful bedroom pop sound, which borrows heavily from music’s greats. She counts Frank Ocean, Joni Mitchell, MF DOOM, TLC  and Radiohead amongst her influences, which she regularly alludes to in her music. With Ottis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’ being her earliest musical memory, it is of no surprise that her conversational tone explores such vivid imagery.  Most notably, ‘Caroline’ is an exercise in people watching, showing how relationships can disintegrate in an instance. The lyrics feel like a stream of consciousness as she explores a single moment in a stranger’s past, without context. The harmonic complexity of the song reaches a climax in the chorus and manages to maintain the mood of the album, whilst still maintaining the culmination of tension of anger in the lyrics.

The sixth track, ‘Black Dog’ is stripped back and sonicly very distinct from the rest. The song is a portrait of the confusion and helplessness you feel when trying to understand depression. The restrained composition compliments this incredibly powerful song. It brings the album to the intimate setting where it began. This distinctly juxtaposes ‘Too Good’ – it embodies lots of the inspiration Parks cites: a nostalgic hip hop beat, a Radiohead name drop and a vintage girl band glean. It’s funky bassline and light guitars give it a fun atmosphere.

Already dubbed as the voice of Generation Z, this debut had a lot to live up to, by and large Parks has delivered.

Parks excels at observing small intimate moments. The lyrical flair in songs like ‘For Violet’ are what makes this album stand out. “Wait, you know when college starts again you’ll manage / Wait, you know that I’ll be there to kiss the damage” she affectionately counsels a friend. On her surreal first track she says that “The turquoise in my ring matches the deep blue cramp of everything”. Her lyricism is full of poise and elegance.

Already dubbed as the voice of Generation Z, this debut had a lot to live up to, by and large Parks has delivered. Collapsed comes at an important time and brings with it the warmth and release many of us need. I’m excited to see where Parks’ future lies.

Featured Image: Arlo Parks shot before Loyle Carner’s performance at the Alexandra Palace in 2019 via Wikimedia Creative Commons

One thought on “Album Review: Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

  • Great article thank you for introducing her to me. I look forward to hearing the album.

    Reply

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