The Context – London—perhaps the capital of melancholic, introspective sonic reflection—is home to the latest indie pop darling in Arlo Parks. The 20-year-old West Londoner signed to the Beatnik Collective in 2018 where she released her debut single “Cola”—an empowering song of spoiled love packed with smooth neo-soul falsetto and scat as well as a slinking lounge-like bass line. Parks’ juxtaposition of emotional lyricism indicative of her fellow Generation Z “Zoomers” (e.g. references to Gerard Way and skater boys) and sophisticated singer/songwriter and R&B vocal delivery and production heard in “Cola” are emblematic of the DIY-spirit of transgressive bedroom pop genre she headlines with the likes of Steve Lacy, Still Woozy, and Clairo.
In 2019, Parks signed with indie label Transgressive Records following the release of the Super Sad Generation and Sophie EPs including favorites from her discography such as “Cola,” “George,” and “Sophie.” Dismayed, yet eager to create following the cancellation of her first headlining tour of Britain and Europe due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Parks wrote the emotionally powerful singles “Eugene” and “Black Dog” in February and May 2020 respectively while in quarantine. Park’s soulful renditions of Radiohead’s “Creep” and George Michael’s “Last Christmas” as well as her feature on Glass Animals October 2020 re-release of “Tangerine” served as final precursors to her debut LP Collapsed in Sunbeams.
The Content – Parks’ penchant for poetry initiates the record in the eponymous “Collapsed in Sunbeams” where the artist recites moody verse punctuated by whirring synths. The poem then launches into the jazzy “Hurt” where Parks’ narration seeks to optimistically reassure a depressed subject. The lo fi lounge version of “Hurt” that appears later on the record sees slightly more raw emotion from Parks as her vocal enhancements are stripped. With its bouncy guitars and subdued, recurring Muzak-esque vocal arrangement, “Too Good” appears as a neo-Britpop track questioning the romantic fronts her generation puts up regularly. Much like its title indicates, “Hope” carries an opportunism in sound and lyricism in relation to the previous tracks.
“Caroline,” a pre-release single from the record, is the first instance on Collapsed in Sunbeams where she takes on a more dampened tone in a narrative of a significant other trying to salvage a turbulent relationship. The somber mood carries over into the aforementioned “Black Dog” where the subject struggles with crippling mental health issues. The lo fi lounge bonus tracks have two renditions of “Black Dog” with one displaying more optimistic vocal intonation than the original and the other a poem explicating the mental healing of the subject and the narrator.
Parks’ tale of a short-lived former love on “Green Eyes” is a grooving track that returns to the uplifting motif of the record. The groove shines again on the fun-loving romantic rejection of “Just Go.” The perspective changes on the melancholy “For Violet” in which the narrator tries to cling to a fading love. The dreamy “Eugene” echoes the bummer sentiment as Parks dotes on a long-lasting friend who she sees in a more romantic light. A stifled, yet pulsating beat appears on the intimate “Bluish” while Parks experiments with a little bit of rapping on the “Portra 400” track capstoning the non-deluxe version of the record.
Eight up-close and stripped-down bonus tracks appear on the deluxe version of the record, which include covers of Clairo’s “Bags,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Moon Song,” King Krule’s “Baby Blue,” and Frank Ocean’s “Ivy” in addition to the aforementioned lo fi lounge versions of “Cola,” “Hurt,” and “Black Dog.”
The Skinny – Collapsed in Sunbeams is perhaps the best title for Arlo Parks’ impressive full-length debutant as the singer/songwriter effortlessly outlines crippling, sorrowful premises of heartbreak and questioned identity and wraps them in a comforting indie pop sound of bright, everlasting optimism. The relatable lyricism and infectious rhythm of the songs are exclaimed with the soulful vocals from Parks, which are felt predominantly in the raw and personal bonus tracks on the deluxe version of the record. The long-awaited Collapsed in Sunbeams LP from Parks captures the essence of her previously established bedroom pop sound but also gives a glimpse into her more experimental side (e.g. “Bluish”) to anticipate in future releases.
The Rating – 7.9/10
Collapsed in Sunbeams (Deluxe)
- Collapsed in Sunbeams
- Too Good
- Black Dog
- Green Eyes
- Just Go
- For Violet
- Portra 400
1A. Cola (lo fi lounge)
2A. Hurt (lo fi lounge)
3A. Black Dog (lo fi lounge)
4A. Black Dog Poem (lo fi lounge)
5A. Bags (lo fi lounge)
6A. Moon Song (lo fi lounge)
7A. Baby Blue (lo fi lounge)
8A. Ivy (lo fi lounge)