Take Your Orchids
One more starlet emerging from the relentless quality of BBC Introducing, twenty year old Arlo Parks weaves together a world of soft vocals, delightfully smooth instrumentals and captivating lyricism. With a signature blend of bedroom pop, neo-soul and indie sensibilities, her unique style stands out amidst a saturated British underground scene, and with so many trying to emulate this approach, the arrival of Arlo Parks has announced itself with a remarkably confident sound.
Debut LP Collapsed in Sunbeams kicks off with its title track, a spoken word passage draped over a gently picked guitar motif. It highlights Parks’ passion for poetry, as well as her clear talent for writing. Just shy of a minute long, ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ sets the foundation for the following forty minutes. ‘Hurt’ enters as the album's first ‘proper’ track, if you will, as we are instantly presented with Arlo Parks’ signature sonic realm. A vintage drum break loops throughout the entire track, accompanied by a grooving bassline and these ethereal backing vocals. The hook is infectious and the spoken-word bridge contrasts nicely with the rest of the song. Following up, ‘Too Good’ opens with an introduction that instantly reminded me of Mac Miller’s ‘Knock Knock’, with vocal production that feels immediately reminiscent of the late artist's song. While one of the album's livelier tracks, 'Too Good' still blends the elements we are so familiar with - looped drum breaks, driving bass and outrageously satisfying harmonies.
‘Black Dog’, expectedly, finds itself on the record after becoming one of Parks' most successful singles. The woozy beat and the reverb-drenched piano motif are a perfect combination, and the harmonies throughout are faultless, but lyrically the track strikes a poignancy. With ‘Black Dog’ serving as metaphor for mental illness, as someone who has struggled to see friends and loved ones suffer with their mental health in the past, this cut really hits home:
Let's go to the corner store and buy some fruit
I would do anything to get you out your room
Just take your medicine and eat some food
I would do anything to get you out your room
It's so cruel what your mind can do for no reason
I'd take a jump off the fire escape
To make the black dog go away
As with the entirety of Collapsed in Sunbeams, Parks’ wears her heart on her sleeve. Encapsulating that feeling of total helplessness so well, yet in such a delicate manner, her lyrics are consistently personal, honest and raw. Relentlessly beautiful, yet achingly immediate. It's brilliant, and devastating all at once.
But my biggest gripe with this record boils down to the music industry’s addiction to singles. It's unfair to pin the blame on Parks herself, but fifty percent of the tracklisting on this record were either singles or releases from February of last year onwards. As someone who adores the experience of listening to an album in its entirety for the first time, I feel some of the excitement was extinguished somewhat by the fact I was only hearing around twenty minutes of new material. Despite this, the tracks included here that were released prior, like ‘Eugene’ and ‘Caroline’, are all unquestionably stellar tracks, but to returning fans Collapsed in Sunbeams offers a limited amount of new ideas.
With her debut LP, Parks’ sticks to her guns. While her songwriting approach, at times, may feel a bit familiar and formulaic, it is a formula that works beautifully when crafting her lucid, sun-soaked soundscapes. What cannot be overstated, though, is the fact that Arlo Parks has a truly incredible potential as a singer/songwriter. At only twenty she has a whole lifetime of music creation ahead of her and I for one cannot wait to see what else she brings to the table. ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ is a stunning debut, and Parks’ hazy, intimate anthems are a perfect escape from lockdown life.
- 7.8 -
'black dog', 'hurt', 'eugene'
James Mellen is Slow Motion Panic Masters' Head of A&R, and is currently studying songwriting and production and is based near Bristol. Interests include silly effects pedals, Yorkshire tea and 100 gecs.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He edited this article and he is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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