Arlo Parks - Collapsed In Sunbeams Review

Label: Transgressive

Release Date: 29th January 2021

Rating: 8/10

"The strength of Collapsed In Sunbeams, in both melody and lyrics, firmly lives up to Parks’ reputation as a formidable new talent."

Collapsed In Sunbeams artwork.

Arlo Parks was first brought to my attention whilst watching an episode of Michaela Cole’s TV show I May Destroy You. In the background of a scene, the song 'Cola' was playing, and I was immediately captured by her silky smooth voice. I looked Parks up and noticed that she had just released 'Eugene', and quickly became obsessed with it. I went into work the next day and played it on repeat for hours. The chorus whirled around my head in a continuous loop. So it would be apt to say that I was giddily excited for the release of Collapsed In Sunbeams, Parks’ debut album. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

The album opens with the album title track ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’, a beautiful piece of spoken poetry which showcases the essence of what makes Parks’ music so fantastic. A soothing guitar melody mixed with powerful lines such as, "we’re all learning to trust our bodies / making peace with our own distortions", creates a therapeutic experience. Parks often takes on the role of a supportive friend: such as in ‘Hurt', ‘Hope', ‘Black Dog’ and, ‘For Violet’. It is a theme that perforates throughout her music and soothes the listener; it feels like a meaningful conversation with your closest friend. This sincerity is what makes the album so poignant and timely. Parks confronts the topic of mental health but from a hopeful and optimistic viewpoint, which seems much needed after the sadness of last year.

Halfway through comes ‘Caroline’, which punctuates the album perfectly. ‘Caroline’ is my favourite new single as it creates a snapshot of a relationship breakdown. The song brings a fresh perspective to the subject through Parks' use of a third-person narrator, who watches the argument unfold at a bus stop. The chorus consists of one line: "Caroline, I swear to god I tried" repeated over, summing up the exacerbation that accompanies a crumbling relationship. The melody is soft and catchy in juxtaposition to the punchy narrative; a prominent feature in most of Parks’ songwriting.

A couple of the tracks faded into the background, with ‘Just Go’ and ‘Porta 400’ falling into a ‘forgettable’ category. But the strength of the rest of Collapsed In Sunbeams, in both melody and lyrics, firmly lives up to Parks’ reputation as a formidable new talent. ‘Eugene’ still prevails as my favourite song, due to her capturing the raw feelings of unrequited love. The lyrics evoke a bittersweet taste that lingers on your tongue. No doubt Parks’ talent for poetry is what helps create such beautiful songs, with lines such as, "I’d lick the grief right off your lips" emphasising her sheer talent.

The only real downside was my immediate anticipation for what Arlo Parks will come out with next. But for now, whilst I attempt to wait patiently for the next album, I’m content to have her catchy refrains such as "why’d we always make the simplest things so hard" reverberate around my mind.

Words by Carina Bryan.

2nd February 2021.