There’s nothing that sounds like Arlo Parks debut – nothing. Collapsed in Sunbeams is a singular, a body of work that is a mélange of styles, bridged together to sound like something brand new. The result is something completely thrilling and immersive that you can’t help but play it over and over again.
“Hurt” starts off with a muted backbeat, Parks’s smooth vocal and multi-tracked backing vocals over a simmering horn line. The there’s that irresistible chorus: “I know that you can’t let go/of anything at the moment/just know that it won’t hurt so/won’t hurt so much forever”. The hook will stick with you like glue long after the song is over. “Too Good” and “Hope” are sunny bits of laid-back pop, while “Caroline” opts for something darker. The syncopated keyboards sound like a bit out of Radiohead’s playbook, but Parks turns it into a slice-of-life observation story.
Parks’s penchant for experimentation is very evident, so much so that when the acoustic-based “Black Dog” hits, it feels like a gentle breather in the midst of the clever sonics of the first half of the record. “Green Eyes” feels like it wouldn’t be out of place on a Portishead record, and “Just Go” is a buoyant, bright kiss off.
As the record progresses deeper into Side B, the songs get a bit more ephemeral and a little weirder. “For Violet” feels like a classic trip-hop track with crystalline synths. “Eugene” is a drippy sounding paean to an unrequited love. “Bluish” with its insistent bass and blips details about being claustrophobic. Album closer “Portra 400” feels like the most sample heavy song on the record, alternating between Parks sung vocals and spoken interludes. It’s a nice preview of what might be to come from an artist already pushing the edges of their sound.
Collapsed in Sunbeams establishes Arlo Parks as an artist fearless in her ability to create songs that represent her worldview, both in lyrics and sound. It’s a record you’ll play over and over to hear the small details hidden in each mix, listen for lyrics to pore over to decode their meanings and to listen to those hooks that have burrowed themselves in your brain. Those are all the makings of a great record. Arlo Parks definitely made one.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.