Collapsed in Sunbeams
In recent years there’s been a rise in more confessional, singer songwriter music spearheaded by artists such as Mitski, Frank Ocean, Lana Del Ray and FKA Twigs – a selection of artists that Arlo Parks is very easy to be placed into.
Whilst still relatively new to music, following her transfer from solely poetry, Arlo Parks has been able to make an impact on the industry in a little time. She was named BBC Introducing Artist of the year in 2020. The hype surrounding a piece of media, especially from a figure who shows great promise, can usually be its final killer as they cannot live up to the hype due to their own shortcomings or exaggerated expectations. Two recent examples of this in are the Playboy Carti album Whole Lotta Red and that Cyberpunk 2077 video game, both of which had been promoted heavily for extended periods of time only to be not as good as the predictions and fantasies had built them up to be.
However, Arlo Parks doesn’t fall into this category as her debut album plays to her best strengths as it delivers a tight and easy flowing selection of songs that feel like watching a friend give an intimate concert to you in your bedroom. Parks has managed to perfectly walk the fine line between intimate specifics that make each song feel as though they are for one specific person as well as tapping into a universal fear that is also connected to these lyrics.
The lyrics themselves are very clearly the highlight of Collapsed in Sunbeams as Parks’ past experience as a poet shines through. Black Dog, one of the lead singles and a highlight of the album, beautifully describes the eyes of a friend that she is trying to comfort “Like Robert Smith’s”. It’s these little interjections of the eye makeup of The Cure’s vocalist to the ripped Nike trainers and Thom Yorke references of Too Good that enable Arlo to discuss complex issues without it ever coming across as detached or blasé. The album has overarching themes of coping with anxiety and struggling to come to terms with sexuality that feel both universal and also as if they belong solely to her.
The instrumentals set the mood and a basis for the lyrics to ricochet off from. Caroline’s quickening drumbeat allows the sense of urgency and desperation to grow in the lyrics as Parks softly sings “I Swear to God I’m trying” over and over as the beat stays constant-the two juxtaposing one another brilliantly. Her voice manages to weave calmingly through multiple instrumentals, being very natural and understated in its beauty, this works with both the solemn and upbeat elements of the album with equal ease.
Overall Collapsed In Sunbeams is a perfect glimpse into a moment in time both in Parks personal growth, both as a youth and also the wider insecurities held by many of her peers. It is a remarkable achievement for the 20-year-old who describes herself as someone who spent their youth as “that black kid who couldn’t dance for shit, listening to too much emo music and crushing on some girl in her Spanish class”.