Arlo Parks gives an intimate look into her life in relation to ours with her debut album. This is a track-by-track breakdown of Arlo Parks Collapsed In Sunbeams.
1. Collapsed In Sunbeams
The first track on the album is one of the best pieces of spoken word on this project. Introspective, speaking bliss into the mundane, Parks gives us a taste of what we can expect on this journey through “learning to love our bodies“. The question remains; can this ride accommodate two or more passengers, each one with their own version of events?
With more than 343,000 views on YouTube, the Hurt music video is one of the best performing songs on the album. Directed by Molly Burdett, this groove gave me a reason to live! Like – can we get an Arlo Parks x Thievery Corporation collab perhaps? Just a question – I think that they’d make molten musical gold together. Anyway, Hurt represents the kind of positivity and expression that we need in 2021 – realistic but joyful in its own right.
3. Too Good
Sometimes the simplest things can be so hard. We’ve all been there – all the chasing and intrigue, the curiosity about the “mystery” in another person [insert intense eyeroll here] – but I must say, this song makes this horrible idea sound darn good. The nuanced instruments and effortless approach to songwriting make this song what it is. Bubbling over with classic hip-hop drum kits and jazz-funk guitar elements, slowed just enough to be both modern and timeless, this song is a gem. Also, that organ is something special.
If you are a word-play boffin such as myself, you’ll enjoy the open-endedness of Parks’ lyrics. The peaks and troughs of this project will take you on a wild rollercoaster ride, and like every rollercoaster, there are some harsh turns followed by brief moments of comfort, moreso in the knowing that this here ride is a shared experience. This is one of those brief moments. Don’t get too comfortable though. Disappointment looms.
Being the first of three songs titled with human names, Caroline is about a couple arguing past the point of deep breaths and time-outs. The breaking point is where we find ourselves when we grow tired of tolerating the things that really annoy us. Much as it may look like resentment, it’s really just disappointment. This song, however, is far from that.
6. Black Dog
Also directed by Molly Burdett and once on BBC Radio 1 as the tune of the week, Black Dog brought indie music back to the front seat, reminding Millennials & Gen-Z of their roots. Growing up, I went to schools where my friends’ parents could afford iPods and Mp3 players when my very middle-class parents couldn’t fit such luxuries into the budget. But there was something they taught me to appreciate and enjoy for free – the radio. Inside the mash and gravy of bubblegum and gospel, it was always the dream-pop chicken pieces and sprinkle pops of half-banned alternative-rock that fed my soul. Such nostalgia is priceless and this is what this song brought me back to.
7. Green Eyes
There’s no denying that Parks has been preparing us for the release of this album for a while and, along with a music video directed by Louis Bhose, we present to you Green Eyes by Arlo Parks [digital cheers and applause]. Listen, anyone, and I mean anyone who remembers what it’s like to finally find some semblance of resolve after heartbreak, is going to love this. I could go on and on about the effortlessness in songwriting, but by the time you get here, you’ll already get it and appreciate it.
8. Just Go
You ever have that “closure conversation” with someone at the end of a relationship (or even shortly thereafter) and they continue to linger afterward, trying to be “friends” in the hopes that you’ll change your mind? Yeah, well this song sounds like the bird you flip when they try to take advantage of your civility. In line with the project’s sound, Just Go takes on a more retro feel with a classic late 80’s electric rhythm guitar that echoes through the whole track.
9. For Violet
This is the baby of underground hip-hop and dream-pop that we didn’t know we needed. Earl Sweatshirt would be proud!! Feeling like I’ve entered another realm, I bobbed my head with this song on repeat for at least four rotations. The harmonies in the backing vocals in For Violet stood out the most. As an avid fan of Tom Misch and Jungle, I believe that the use of words is merely one of the simpler ways that the vocal instrument can be used, and it’s been used so well in For Violet. Parks is flexing at this point.
Directed by the Coyle-Larner Brothers, Eugene is a true gift to the senses. . After making the front cover of NME in late July 2020, Parks won the AIM Independent Music Award for ‘One to Watch‘ in August 2020. It was after the release of this song along with ‘Black Dog‘ that Parks generated the listenership she so greatly deserves. Slightly bitter and longing (lyrically), the third of the human name titled tracks is golden.
As a South African who grew up on deep-tech and 70 – 80bpm deep house, Bluish is THE song that I appreciate the most. Am I going to recommend that my deep-tech DJ buddies put this in their sets? Hell yes, and I’m not going to ask twice. Lyrically, Bluish explains what boundaries are and why they exist. Instrumentally, it is the implementation thereof. Finish en klaar! [go ahead and Google this term – add some SA slang to your vocabulary]
12. Portra 400
Anyone who knows anything about grief will tell you how much they can relate to Porta 400. The self-destruct button is almost always within reach when we become numb, but isn’t numbness just a fear of feeling again? Arlo Parks, you’ve done it. From beginning to end, this song is a blur, but in a good way.
Whether you start playing this album from the beginning, middle or end, Collapsed In Sunbeams is a complete body of work, loaded with a ton of relatability. So aptly named, this inspiring, honest, bit of art is as blunt as shower thoughts and as expansive as daydreams. Fans of Corrine Bailey Rae, Vince Staples, and Hey Violet would enjoy the genre-bending nostalgia that comes with Collapsed In Sunbeams. This album has truly made the best out of some of my worst memories, allowing me to reimagine the past and realise a future that doesn’t come with sh^*ing on the bad days. So basically – nostalgia for grown-ups done right. A top-shelf vinyl for sure.