From being an ambitious late teen uploading her demo’s to BBC introducing, to releasing her debut album in under three years, Arlo Parks has blossomed in the music industry. Uploading her demos swiftly lead to a signing with Beatnik where she released her song ‘Cola’ and debut EP ‘Super sad generation’. We now know a song that gave us strong predictions for the themes in her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams.
Since the beginning of 2020, Parks has been teasing us with the smooth, relaxing, easy listening album she was leading to. ‘Eugene’ was the first single she released from the album back in February. This track is like listening to a poetic diary entry, where she struggles with the confusion of when friendship develops into more. The minor key of the looped melody reflects the dazed and confusing feelings she is expressing. Her poetic style of lyricism helps me personally relate to the lyrics without feeling like a typical angsty teenager, an issue commonly found with music expressing young adults’ issues. The light, brushed acoustic drum hits are a common appearance throughout the album, it gives this and the other tracks an extremely laid back relaxing vibe that acts like a wave of calm in the turbulence that is growing up.
The album begins with a short poem accompanied by luminous acoustic strings about how painful the learning curve can be in becoming comfortable in your own skin. It almost portrays itself as an introduction to the themes Parks goes on to express throughout the album. I think this beginning poem lays a perfect path into the rest of the album and its meaning.
Acoustic, brushed jazzy drums are a key feature throughout the album. Often situated at the front of the mix, along with the vocals, it adheres to jazz and soul styles, combined with indie pop melodies giving the album an extremely relaxed sentiment. The melodies are commonly played on synths or keys with reverb to achieve that depth within the songs. One of the singles released in May last year, Black Dog, breaks this mould however with its light and looped acoustic strings melody sitting in the front along with her silky voice. She layers her vocals with harmonies throughout that capture your attention without her having to use too many vocal techniques, this is a performance and showcase of her raw talent. The smooth, soft texture paired with the depth of harmonies is what maintains your attention. It adheres to the style of one of her key inspirations Earl Sweatshirt.
All of the tracks in this album combat the struggles and pain of transitioning from young teen to adult. While relatable to that age group, a difficult topic to make interesting songs with, especially as it’s commonly tackled by many artists. So how has Arlo Parks made such a capturing album when all of its songs discuss these themes? Poetry. Parks could be singing about making a cup of tea and listeners would be engrossed in her lyrics. Her poetic style of writing takes the mundane and makes it engaging and captivating. A favourite track of mine from this album is ‘Hurt’. A song about the feeling of pain and stress young people feel, Parks reminds me that these feelings ‘won’t last forever’. While being a final year student at university this song resonates with me, reminding me that life won’t always be as stressful as it is right now. Both tracks ‘Hurt’ and ‘Hope’ have poetry sections where she reads in her distinctive London accent, akin to the style of Jorja Smith in her track ‘February 3rd’. The London accent is one that strikes a heart cord with me too as it’s where I grew up going to gigs. The break down style of Parks poetry sections makes me feel like she’s talking directly to me.
Despite being a young 20-year-old singer and poet, thrown into the music scene with force, Arlo Parks has remained herself. She has combined indie pop and jazz styles with poetic lyricism and created a beautiful, tranquil but stimulating debut album. I have rated this album so high because she tackles difficult issues that many young people, including myself, face, but has written these tracks in such a way that they are relaxing and calming to listen to. They’re not angry songs that make you feel worse or sadder, but just comfort you that you’re not alone.