‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’
Release date: January 29, 2021
You know you’ve witnessed greatness in any field when excellence meets simplicity; when the result seems so tantalisingly effortless. Masters of their trade make brilliance look easy (consider Sir Mo Farah; controlled and comfortable smashing world records…) With this first LP album, ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams,’ fresh sensation Arlo Parks succeeds in that same kind of painless elegance, her talent suggesting she’s somehow magicked decades of experience and graft into her mere twenty years of age.
Many feel this way about her, backing her to the hilt, including a full six-week guest residency on BBC 6 Music to coincide with the album release; full-colour covers on NME and the Evening Standard; winning the AIM ‘One to Watch;’ and becoming BBC Introducing Artist Of The Year Awards; also making her debut appearances on COLORS and ‘Later…. with Jools Holland.’ Yet Arlo doesn’t exude that business-like ambition or arrogance (or even much assertiveness to be honest) that we expect from successful artists, yet she still respires 100% confidence and belief in her words, through her words. This will be the poet ingrained in her; from the press release: ‘In Arlo Parks’ world, words are as useful as photographs… she uses poetry as her songwriting compass.’ Yet somehow, I can imagine her musing in imagery… she certainly sings in pictures.
She readily references her calm and safe upbringing in London as a font of her artistry – which I find so interesting that far from channelling the swirling rivers of turbulent backgrounds for inspiration, as many do, somehow she has created energy, power, message and depth out of still waters. Water that to the listener is both refreshing and invigorating. “There wasn’t that much to do, and I was a pretty happy kid, I was very much in my own little world,” she explains, describing spending her free time exploring creative ways to express her emotions. “Because I was feeling a lot, I started writing quite young,” and given that; the lyrics can be raw and honest but ultimately resound with positivity and uplifting messages. You will no doubt be familiar with ‘Black Dog,’ and the sentiment is reflected in ‘Hope,’ “you’re not alone like you feel you are; we all have scars, I know it’s hard.”
In terms of the actual songs obviously the singles were chosen as they are the highlights but arguably Just Go (one of the previously unreleased album tracks) better shows off the maturity of her songwriting craft and skill. It has flashes of nuance that is perhaps more apparent than in other tracks.
The LP is dripping with vibes; it’s drenched with chill (the lounge piano in ‘Hope’ is gorgeous) and packed full of descriptive imagery, narrative and poetic cheek (see ‘Hurt’ and of course ‘Caroline’).
I love the beats – ‘Hurt’ and ‘Green Eyes’ skip along with real funk and groove. ‘Violet’ reveals the influence of bands such as Massive Attack and Portishead with a deep resonating Hammond organ-esque sound. This dip towards dark is swiftly tempered into the melancholic reflectiveness of ‘Eugene.’
If you’ve loved discovering Arlo through her ground-breaking singles you’ll know what you are getting with ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ and you will be absolutely fine with that. Not samey, …but definitely moreish. Get it on in your car the moment the silent internal violence of lockdown ends and drive through the night on your own, as far as you can, in a hypnotic and melancholic euphoria.