Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams Music Album Reviews

Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams Music Album Reviews
The hotly tipped 20-year-old singer-songwriter debuts with a cool, confident record that occasionally blends into pleasant monotony.

After releasing her debut single “Cola” in 2018, 20-year-old London poet Arlo Parks won the approval of virtually every possible tastemaker. Michelle Obama put her on a playlist; Hayley Wililams nearly included her as a tour opener, and Phoebe Bridgers covered Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” with Parks on piano and harmonies. While prepping her debut album, Parks collaborated with festival favorites Glass Animals and R&B newcomers MICHELLE. It’s not hard to see why she has so much support; Parks’ songwriting is affectionate and friendly, never straining too hard, always cool and collected. Nearly every song has a message of comfort—on the opener, she sings, “You shouldn’t be afraid to cry in front of me,” while the chorus of “Hope” goes, “You’re not alone/Like you think you are,” over light trip-hop. In a vacuum, any one of these songs are charming, but on Collapsed in Sunbeams, they all blur into a pleasant sort of monotony.
As a songwriter, Parks uses pop culture references and proper nouns as shorthand to set scenes, hoping to build “a complete world that people can immerse themselves in.” This is often endearing; the pre-album single “Cola” mentioned Gerard Way, and the clunkiness of “I’d lick the grief right off your lips/You do your eyes like Robert Smith” on “Black Dog” just makes the song feel more intimate. In a lot of instances, those attempts at immersion get so repetitive that they ironically serve as distractions. There are so many names—Charlie, Caroline, Millie—that it’s hard to keep track, and there are so many references and words of affirmation that it’s hard to remember who said what to whom. It doesn’t help that songs like “Hurt” (the Charlie one) are aimless sketches about aimless characters, where the point is that the references and platitudes don’t add up to anything.

Parks’ eclectic influences show up in her lyrics (Thom Yorke, Nujabes, and Jai Paul all get name-drops), but not her music. Whether the producer is Paul Epworth or usual collaborator Gianluca Buccellati, everything sounds too sweet. Every other song has a dry drum kit with atmospheric vinyl cracks and floaty keyboards. Even the moments that change things up feel undercooked: “Just Go” is extremely light disco, while “Porta 400” opens with a string sample that almost immediately disappears in the mix. The distorted bass of “For Violet” sounds like it might lead to something darker, worthy of the Massive Attack on Parks’ playlist, but within 45 seconds Parks is back to geniality: “Wait/You know when college starts again you’ll manage!”

“Violet” is one of a handful of moments where the comforting atmosphere starts to crack—it hints at a more compelling album actively at war with its own themes. The breakthrough “Dog” depicts helping someone through a mental health crisis (“At least I know that you are trying/But that’s what makes it terrifying”), but on “Violet,” she gives up on helping, instead repeating, “Nothing’s changing and I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” The best songs flip the formula altogether, finding universality in specific themes instead of dressing up universal themes in specific imagery. Early single “Eugene” adds a layer of complexity and heartbreak to a traditional pop subject: Parks’ character falls for a straight girl, a painful variation on unrequited love where reciprocation is inherently impossible. On “Green Eyes,” the love is reciprocated, but ends after two months in fear of homophobic attacks. When Parks inevitably offers a platitude—“You gotta trust how you feel inside and shine”—there are actual stakes to give those lines some meaning.

Repeated listens further reveal the weight missing from the production and melodies: When she stands up for herself on penultimate track “Bluish,” there are few pop-culture references or proper nouns, just simple and effective lines like “never had the chance to miss you” and “please let me out of you.” Sunbeams could use more of that directness. Otherwise, it’s easy to imagine someone walking into a coffee shop, nodding their head to the supportive chorus wafting over the speakers, and never thinking about it again.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams Music Album Reviews Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, February 08, 2021 Rating: 5

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