Arlo Parks: Collapsed in Sunbeams (Transgressive) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, March 4th, 2021  

Arlo Parks

Collapsed in Sunbeams

Transgressive

Jan 28, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


London singer/songwriter Arlo Parks has spent the last years of her adolescence carving out a place within the world of bedroom pop, chronicling the highs and lows of young love with impressive heart. At only 20, and with a massive amount of attention behind her, Parks is faced with the daunting task of translating those first steps into a single cohesive project. Fortunately, with Collapsed In Sunbeams she delivers an album of touching vignettes and empathetic grace, uplifting the record beyond its intimate presentation for a powerfully affecting debut.

Parks comes in the wake of the explosion in popularity of dozens of bedroom pop devotees, including Clairo, who joins Parks on “Green Eyes.” Yet, even within that crowded field, Parks’ debut stands out as unusually poignant. Her style bridges influences from across the pop, R&B, and indie spectrum for a fresh and dynamic combination. The organic, inviting tone of a song such as “Eugene” recalls Lianne La Havas’ latest record, while “Too Good” and “Just Go” sport fantastically groovy basslines and undeniable pop hooks. Later on the record, Parks’ R&B influences come through on the beats of “Bluish” or the chopped beat on “Portra 400.”

Although when listening to Parks it is easy to pick out the connections to the nourishing tones of Frank Ocean or Sufjan Stevens, it’s also obvious much of her inspiration comes from literature as well. Parks has made no secret of her love for Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg and the evidence lies in the poetry of her lyrics. On several points on the record Parks’ poetry forms the connective tissue of the album or even within a song, expounding powerful imagery against the relaxed instrumentals. Yet, the world she constructs is refreshingly relatable and welcoming. Where some music confronts the listener, Parks invites them closer and builds a beautiful bond through her emotional and universal storytelling. 

Much of the album reflects back on Parks’ own recent adolescent experiences with love, heartbreak, and rejection. While these are presented from Parks’ point of view as a young bisexual woman, there’s a deeply relatable element to the music that connects with even those outside her experience. Though a track such as “Eugene” may be about the experience of Parks falling in love with her straight best friend, anyone can connect with the story of unrequited love. It’s the little details that Parks deploys that make the record work so well, such as the jealousy she feels when her friend shows Eugene the records and poetry they shared together, the little references to Thom Yorke and Robert Smith, or the almost voyeuristic details on “Caroline.” These elements make the songs ring true even if they are presented from an unfamiliar perspective to some listeners.

Additionally, though the music may be at times melancholic, Parks is a consistently warm and empathetic voice. She gently coaxes a friend through the mire of depression on “Black Dog,” singing “Let’s go to the corner store/And buy some fruit/I would do anything to get you out your room.” On “Green Eyes” Parks writes to an ex-lover, reflecting back on a relationship that imploded due to homophobic judgments. Yet there’s no bitterness or anger in her presentation, only a gentle understanding. As Parks herself phrases it on the closer, “Portra 400,” “I’m always making rainbows out of something painful.” 

Arlo Parks’ debut confirms what fans of her EPs likely already knew; she is a rising songwriter of unusual skill and grace. Her take on bedroom pop feels unusually distinctive in a genre that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Moreover, her ability to communicate the raw hardships of life with universality, compassion, and hope is genuinely moving and makes her debut a testament to her artistry. (www.arloparksofficial.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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