This article first appeared on KCPR.org. Mustang Media Group is a student-run organization that encompasses Mustang News and KCPR. They collaborate to cover news, arts and culture for Cal Poly and the greater San Luis Obispo community.
“Collapsed in Sunbeams,” the debut album of London-er, indie up-and-comer Arlo Parks was released on Jan. 29. It brought a warm, soulful and confessional sound that further develops from her previous EPs and singles.
Arlo Parks skyrocketed in popularity after her first single “Cola” back in 2018, which led to her signing with Transgressive Records.
Parks, whose full name is Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, grew up in West London enamoured with words. She consistently wrote short stories, journaled and watched spoken-word performances on YouTube.
Parks described herself as “spending too much time in school feeling like that black kid who couldn’t dance for shit, listening to too much emo music, and crushing on some girl in her Spanish class.”
This fixation on the art of writing and language definitely shows in her music, as “Collapsed in Sunbeams” is rich with the stories, worlds and memories that Parks creates. An example of this can be seen in the song, “Caroline,” where she paints this vivid picture of a break-up from her perspective while waiting for the bus. It’s incredible and perfectly exemplifies how one can find so much in these stories that she generates through multiple listens.
However, Parks’ storytelling skills have proven themselves consistently in her work through the constant acclaim and streams she’s garnered.
Since her first single, Parks has steadily displayed the talent and skill in her music that led to her being named on the BBC’s Sound of 2020 Longlist and declared as BBC’s 2020 Introducing Artist of the Year.
Parks also partnered with bands like Easy Life on their “Junk Food” album, MICHELLE on their “Sunrise” album, Future Utopia on their “12 Questions” album, Glass Animals on their single “Tangerine,” and she even co-wrote “Green Eyes” with bedroom-pop super-star Clairo.
Her early EPs, “Super Sad Generation” and “Sophie” detail problems facing Generation Z, heartbreak and mortality. These early EPs contain more a low-fidelity sound than “Collapsed in Sunbeams” and seem like the type of music recorded in bedrooms and on GarageBand.
However, this new album feels almost like the apex of the sound she has been building up to. The blues of “Black Dog” are deeper and richer than a song like “Paperback” and the sunny vibes of a song like “Hope” feel more vibrant than her song “George.” Overall, this evolution gives the album a lot of color and a lot of room for Parks to explore meanings, depth and textures. Fans of neo-soul and “Foxbase Alpha”-era Saint Etienne will find a lot to love here.
The album feels like a culmination of multiple influences that Parks has mentioned from King Krule, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Sufjan Stevens, or the multiple artists featured on her Spotify playlist like Erykah Badu, Otis Redding, The Cure, and Frank Ocean. If “Collapsed in Sunbeams” proves anything — it is that Parks is very studious in the classics and modern indie.
Overall, this is a really great album for the cold winter of isolation we find ourselves in, as it provides a disarmingly warm sound to help soothe the tender tales of heartbreak and sad-boi vibes that both Parks and many others have faced.