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ALBUM REVIEW: Arlo Parks – ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’

Establishing a rich soundscape and charming songcraft, Arlo Parks confidently dons the crown of an ‘artist of a generation’.

★★★★★/5

At just 20 years old, Arlo Parks has a poetic voice that already oozes with wisdom. The London native’s brand new debut album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ is a testament to this, stacked full of parables on the modern complexities of love and loss.

Already having achieved widespread acclaim in recent years, Arlo Park’s first full-length project cements her artistry as an emerging poet and musician alike. Across the twelve tracks, Parks floats between universal themes like heartbreak, young love, and identity, effortlessly reading like the notes app of any millennial going through the emotional throes of life.

Lyrics, clearly, are at the very core of Arlo Parks’ it-factor. A poet first and foremost, she opens the album with a spoken-word piece that captures the dizzying feeling of falling in love. Throughout the album her diaristic ethos persists, allowing her musings flow with apparent ease whilst simultaneously tackling complicated 21st-century woes like mental health and body image. Released in May, the stunning single Black Dog became somewhat of a testimony of pandemic-times, as she coos, “I would do anything to get you out your room / It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason”. In lyrically reaching out to a friend in the depths of a mental health crisis, Arlo demonstrates her profound ability in gauging not only a cultural zeitgeist, but the genuine emotional spirit of a nation of drained listeners.

There’s a unique thread running through this project though, manifesting in the bisexual singer’s sincere exploration of queer identity. With their mellow production, standout tracks like Eugene and Green Eyes capture the tentative sensation of falling in love as a queer teen. She sings “Could not hold my hand in public / Felt their eyes judgin’ our love and beggin’ for blood”, attesting to the daunting experience of growing into the queer experience with the same masterful songwriting prowess of artists like Frank Ocean.

Frankly, we’d be amiss to ignore the album’s release only a few days preceding the untimely death of electronic-pop superstar SOPHIE. As eulogies flow across social media dedicated to the ground-breaking transgender producer, the vital role of queer artistry becomes ever more apparent. With artists like Arlo committing their experiences to the song, exploring both the intimacy and hurt of queer love, we see a precious canon of music grow that rejects the constricting notions of heterosexual and cisgender identity. More necessary than ever are brilliantly-crafted songs that represent the queer experience honestly; not a tragic storyline, but a real account of love at its most beautiful and heart-shattering.

‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ is a debut record that seems so effortlessly self-assured. Always naturalistic, Arlo Parks uses her woozy R&B sensibilities and mellow lyricisms in tandem, creating a project so powerful and sincere that’s sure to find a permanent place in its young listeners’ hearts.

Michael Anderson
Writer

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