More often than not, when an artist is on the receiving end of the sort of hype and exposure that Arlo Parks has been the recipient of, the result and the debut album, usually, doesn’t quite match the expectations. However, Collapsed In Sunbeams is, thankfully, a different story. Parks sets the stall out on exactly who she is over the course of a sunny, yet profound, album that is both joyous and moving.
The album is full of maturity and Parks is a 20-year-old with more life experience than people who have been on this earth for twice as long. She unconventionally begins the record, which sets the album’s tone in a left-field fashion. However, within this 55-second long spoken-word title track. “Collapsed in sunbeams, Stretched out open to beauty however brief or violent, I see myself ablaze with joy, sleepy-eyed, Feeding your cat or slicing artichoke hearts, I see myself sitting beside you,” Parks calmly lulls us into a sense of security over some tranquil strings.
The album’s title Parks took from Zadie Smith’s 2005 novel, On Beauty. Across the album, it’s clear that lyrics are the most important thing to Parks. Whilst most artists seemingly treat lyrics as an afterthought, a place to create loose rhymes, Parks makes them a priority. Her innate ability to create something universally relatable, by being uber-personal and using micro-specific details, is her greatest talent. This lyricism gives her work a sense of ingenuity that’s hard to come by.
The second track on the record is the phenomenal ‘Hurt’, which is one of the most upbeat moments on the record and oozes optimism, despite the tough topic of suffering that the 20-year-old deals with on the track. The sense that things will eventually get better is a message that we all need reminding of right now, and the way that Parks delicately deals with these topics in a nuanced fashion is a testament to her writing. There’s no black and white, sixth-form style lyricism from Parks, and her ability to deal with serious matters, without sounding at all out-of-depth or providing simple answers, is a blessing for our bleak lives.
‘Hope’ offers up a poignant moment too. One that deals with insecurity and constantly feeling anxious about what the future holds. When the world has never looked anymore uncertain, this is a track that feels important for right now and feels like a reassuring sign that things won’t always be this way.
Parks has been open about her battles with mental health and struggles to come to terms with her sexuality, but, hearing her sing so candidly about these ‘taboo’ subjects is liberating. There will be countless teenagers going through similar battles that Parks accounts throughout the record, and hearing somebody discuss these issues, whilst displaying that there is a light at the tunnel, can only be a positive thing.
There is a sense of empathy that runs across the record, and that’s what makes Parks different from other Gen-Z artists. ‘For Violet’ sees Parks try to reassure a struggling friend, which encapsulates the arm round the shoulder feeling that breathes warmth and comfort into the whole album.
Collapsed In Sunbeams feels like Arlo Parks is becoming comfortable with who she is and the adult she has become. There is a melancholy feel to the album, and it is full of diary entries, each track on the album paints a novella of her world. These 12 stories create a cohesive work-of-art that, as well as being a solid debut effort, sums up her journey from adolescence into adulthood. This album is just the start of her highly-anticipated career, and so far, Parks has more than justified the intense hype that surrounded her.