Collapsed in Sunbeams by Arlo Parks review
By Sam Llanillo
UK singer Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, stage name Arlo Parks, makes melancholy yet pleasant music inspired by the likes of Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and more. Despite being incredibly new to the music industry, she has already worked with big names such as Phoebe Bridgers and Glass Animals. Her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams has received acclaim from Billie Eilish and Claire Cotrill [Clairo], the latter of which made significant musical contributions to the album as well. While the contributions from Cotrill are abundantly clear in the similarities between the two artists’ work, Parks does well to make her own distinct sound known on this project.
Throughout the album she plays it relatively safe in that while there are songs that stand out, there is little deviation by way of composition or production. While this artistic choice allows for the ideal structure of a debut album whose purpose is to display the artist’s personal sound and aesthetic, it makes some of the songs come off as forgettable or less impactful. The later half of the record maintains the pleasantness that was put forth in the beginning, but new tracks such as ‘Bluish’ and ‘For Violent’ are upstaged by Park’s most popular single, ‘Eugene’ which masterfully tells a modern day LGBTQ+ version of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Some of the new songs on this record do show promise, such as ‘Too Good’ with its catchy hook or the atmospheric ending track, ‘Portra 400,’ despite this, the overall trend of this album is that Park’s already released singles often take the spotlight and her newer songs act as padding. However, this structural flaw does not compromise the album in any way, and one could even argue that it is for the better, as some of these singles are higher quality than the vast majority of indie pop music released in the past couple years. Apart from ‘Eugene,’ there’s the driving yet melancholy ‘Hurt’ which deals with themes of pain and depression, and the beautifully produced ‘Black Dog’ which describes the artist’s attempt to help her best friend through a painful time.
Most of the songs on this record tell stories about other people, real people in Parks’ life renamed in the music which all reflect a certain archetype and give the audience a look both at the artist’s life and their own. She allows the listeners to hear themselves in the exasperated man in ‘Caroline’ pleading with his girlfriend, or with the girl in ‘Hope’ struggling with loneliness. While the storytelling on this album may seem repetitive or formulaic at times, it is anchored down by the pleasant sound design and when it does hit rather than miss, it packs a lot of impact. This full-length LP marks a strong start for Arlo Parks, and it demonstrates the potential she has to make projects that are just as good, and probably even better in the future.