‘collapsed in sunbeams’ is an excellent record from arlo parks; a delightful achievement of collaboration and creation. there are beautiful moments of spoken word, explosive melodies, and depictions of parks’ inclusive lyrics.
Arlo gifts this work to the collective public. the project is a memorable success that will influence years and generations to come.
‘collapsed in sunbeams’ hardly feels like an album, it is more-so a collection of confrontational tunes; songs that are filled with societal observations, poetic synergy, iconic songwriting, and apt production.
Arlo parks is an expert lyricist, and as if arlo’s songwriting and poetic style wasn’t enough, she consistently works with the help of Gianluca Buccellati. he aids the process of songwriting and producing. Buccellati cowrites and coproduces with arlo on ~9 of the 12 tracks. additionally, superstar producer paul epworth co-writes and produces two tracks.
i shall remember the day arlo parks’ debut dropped, and the same will be said for all of parks’ future releases, as she’s THAT type of artist. she’s a poetic songwriter.
like Adrienne lenker’s ‘songs’ record, ‘collapsed in sunbeams’ is an instant influence, and a statement in the music scene in terms of songwriting. the music feels direct, yet vague, as if Arlo writes personalized songs that are still accessible to the masses.
something that is underrated are Arlo’s vocal performances. her certain style and flow doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. everyone praises Parks’ songwriting, yet the singing is impressive as well.
my only real issue with the music is that the chorus’ are repetitive and often bland. i wish more chorus’ were like “black dog” although even that one is sorta repetitive. there could be some more lyrical diversity within some chorus’, and less repetition of the same phrase(s).
“collapsed in sunbeams” reminds me of “flight of the navigator” by childish gambino. its dreamy essence is otherworldly and comforting. there’s so many loving pieces to this brief track. at one point, where arlo speaks of her turquoise ring, and i find it completely memorable. this poem is unbearably on point and a fantastic begging to her debut album.
“hurt” tells the story of Charlie, the main character of the song. he’s a loveable guy who’s incapable of feeling. he uses alcohol and other coping mechanisms to numb the numbness. there’s even a twin peaks reference in verse two.
verse three of “hurt” is one of the best on the album. it may be my favorite verse on this project:
“Charlie started seeing stars, so stuck on the new Jai Paul
said “my clothes are sticking to me and I can't quite see my walls"
started dreaming of a house with red carnations by the windows
where he didn't feel so small, so overwhelmed by all his flaws”
it’s a spoken word moment that takes the full spotlight. the song’s sole focus, in those moments, is on Arlo’s voice. she takes the lyrics and drives them throughout her speaking. she veers focus from person to object to surroundings. she uses the hazy lyrics and gives her own mysterious, fantastic performance.
additionally, the song has some hallucinogenic production. the baseline is groovy, and the drums are used very well.
“too good” is produced and co-written by Paul Epworth. it’s, possibly, the most arlo parks song on this album. verse one catchily details a breakfast gathering between arlo and an unknown person. it’s extremely sweet how personal and specific the lyrics are.
arlo sings of rings (again) and a “bump on your wrist”. this is one of the most poetic moments on the album, even though she’s singing. it contains the memorable refrain:
“watching you tryna push away
it hurts when you see it coming
never use your words to show you care”.
the song is actually genius. Paul epworth uses his production knowledge to bless the listener with this absolutely soothing experience. arlo calmly ponders,
“why’d we make the simplest things so hard?”
the essential details are within the intricate, accessible lyrics. throughout these three and a half minutes, Parks uses words to induce a calming feeling of meta. as if one’s on a tranquil psychedelic, and can suddenly understand everything.
the synths/electric pianos are trippy, and add that psychedelic touch that arlo briefly dabbles with. the guitar and bass are feeding off each other, and swinging the music. meanwhile, the backing vocals carry harmonies throughout some parts.
“hope” is a jazzy, chilled out tune. it feels icy. being the final single off the album, it’s comforting and catchy. the song tells the story of an unknown friend of arlo’s. the topics deal with isolation and depression, and it’s even more relatable with the pandemic going on.
the verses and their continuous flow are peak arlo, as she’s delivering her signature style in clever fashion.
“caroline” has a chorus the explodes with harmonies. the storied lyrics detail Arlo’s witnessing of an Aussie couple’s struggle. it’s a powerful anthem of emotion and effort. the storytelling on this one is my favorite on the entire album. the characteristics and attributes of the lyrics really engage the listening experience.
one of my favorite moments on the song is when arlo uses her voice stylishly:
“maybe if she took a breath
she would know i did it all for her”
arlo dips her voice as she vocalizes “for her” and its accentuating her wonderful singing.
“black dog” is one of arlo’s very best songs. the term “black dog” refers to depression. the very first lyrics are,
“i’d lick the grief right off your lips
you do your eyes like Robert Smith”
Parks signs, almost whispering, with deadpan lyrics that immediately get to the point. the whole song is full of witty, double meanings and philosophical hooks. arlo doesn’t sound pretentious, she uses her amazing brain and keeps things brilliantly simple.
“black dog” is, at its surface level, a poetic message of love and wellbeing. for example, “just take your medicine and eat some food” shows the calming message of the song. throughout the track, i believe parks is attempting to encourage the listener. to help them escape the black dog.
“green eyes” is likely my favorite song on ‘sunbeams’. it shows the ugly in the most beautiful way possible. arlo comforts the listener through a journey of hate and sorrow.
verse one begins as an intimate description of an inside romance. the song goes on to detail the failed relationship and a family’s shaming of it. parks continues,
“i wish that your parents had been kinder to you
they made you hate what you were out of habit
remember when they caught us makin' out after school
your dad said he felt like he’d lost you”
it shows how families can be unwelcoming of LGBTQIA+ peoples. it goes on to describe how the general public can be shaming of Arlo’s romance with green eyes.
green eyes remains nameless, which is an important distinction considering how many songs on ‘sunbeams’ are named after people or characters. the fact that they’re known only by “green eyes” is likely a protective measure on the song’s protagonist. the fact that arlo must keep the name secret, for whatever reason, is a terrible affect of society.
“green eyes” features many memorable refrains, notably:
“some of these folks wanna make you cry
but you gotta trust how you feel inside”.
this shows how prejudices of one’s environment can be harmful, yet one can persevere through that difficulty.
green eyes is a production highlight as well; the song sounds crisp and clear. i can really feel the low bass, and hear arlo’s influences on this one.
when discussing “green eyes”, arlo proclaimed,
“i was really inspired by Frank Ocean here - particularly “Futura Free”. i was also listening to “Moon Safari” by Air, Stereolab, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tirzah, Beach House and a lot of that dreamy, nostalgic pop music i love”.
all of those artists’ vibes impressively coalesce into the track. one can hear all these influences imprinted within the music, as Buccellati recreates their ideas in an original manner.
“just go” is a breakup anthem. it’s funky, jazzy, poppy, etc. the lyrics create a feeling of honesty as Arlo places the listener inside the song’s own world. it’s a calming vibe with a message that tells someone they need to go and get out of Arlo’s life, at least in that instance.
“for violet” was written during the same sessions/around the same time as “caroline”, and they are both fitting highlights. “for violet” is a dark soundscape of trip hop and bleak atmospherics. inspired by Portishead’s classic song “roads”, it is meant to feel gritty and spacey.
the lyrics on “for violet” turn from verse one’s “terror swirling in your iris” to discussing death and an abusive father’s relationship with his family. there are chilling harmonies and emotional pleas. the sad, high pitched, almost perfect vocals in the chorus feel right outta an XXXtentacion song.
the instrumentals on “Eugene” reminisce of ‘in rainbows’ era radiohead. the bass is just stellar, as it feels like it’s longing for another. the drums on this one really do remind me of phil selway.
verse one is another highlight from the album. the lyrics portray a purplish romance with an excellent rhyme scheme. the chorus on this one is great, and it’s a solid blueprint for how arlo can evolve.
organizationally, it’s quite stunning to look at how the lyrics appear. Arlo’s truly a poet.
“Eugene” serves as lead single in a perfect fashion, as it seems flawless to me.
“bluish” is a questionable follow up. the production is supposed to be closing in on the listener, in a claustrophobic way that matches the lyrics. it is meant to feel surrounding and engulphing.
despite its memorable concept, and the production’s great execution, i regret to admit that it is my least favorite song on the album. the song is mid.
“porta 400” is a great way to close out ‘collapsed in sunbeams’. it ends the album on a high note. epworth, again, works on this one. he creates a feeling of warmth.
there is a piano riff that is so edited to the point where it seems that it’s possibly sampled. however, i believe that “porta 400” is completely original, and that the perfectionist standards of its creators resulted in this impressive recording.
okay, now, for a slightly different topic: lemme talk about the 6ix singles released!
prior to listening to ‘collapsed in sunbeams’, i hadn’t any idea how many tracks would be on the album, and i wasn’t sure which singles would be included. i certainly didn’t expect for six to be included. no matter the quality six singles is too many for a mere twelve track album.
albiet great songs, that’s a bit too many singles, don’t you think ? is this a new thing with covid or something? or did Transgressive Records make that odd decision? because Arlo released half the record before the album even dropped.
her releases are slated for billions of streams, so i guess i can understand why a record company would rush the overall release, especially with covid going on. still though, the pre-album rollout kinda spoiled the release...
that’s why i didn’t listen to all of Hayley Williams’ EP’s/singles from 2020, because it was so clearly revealing the majority of the album prior to its full release. (even though the release schedule was only following Hayley’s vision, i digress).
so ... where to draw the line for dropping singles? PVRIS released five singles throughout 2019 and 2020 for their third album. five singles out of eleven songs is just under half the album, and PVRIS seemed just to reach that line of too many singles.
many artists release three of four singles before an album, and some even re-release non-singles as singles afterwards.
i am not even going to delve into the chainsmoker’s, whose release schedule contains a staggering amount of singles.
arlo released 50 percent of the album prior to the launch date, which, in my opinion, is too much.
the numbers can differ, but the line is the same. even with larger sized albums, there should be a point where artists stop previewing the album.
i was expecting a 12-15 track album from Arlo Parks, with ~4 ish singles included. in other words, i was expecting at least seven to eight new songs. instead we got five actually new songs. and im not the biggest fan of “bluish”, so then there’s only four new songs.
to their credit, the songs slap. However, numbers aside, i was expecting more new music from Arlo than we got, and that in itself is disappointing.
i had extremely high expectations for this record (which, in retrospect, a was a bad idea), yet i was not at all disappointed. i was surprised with how well this album presents itself. it contains a light sound: approachable, yet condensed.
throughout ‘sunbeams’, there are general stories and characters, detailed verses, gripping phrasing, and wonderful name-drops of Thom Yorke, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Smith.
arlo is influenced by the very best and, when making her songs, she combines the ideas of many. radiohead, nick drake, beatles, Motown, Patti Smith, adrianne lenker, and countless other icons. Parks takes these influences and crafts her own vibes. the songs created are full of small sounds that can individually remind one of their origin.
this record, in its entirety, is testament to arlo’s versatility as an artist. her skills were largely realized on this project, yet she still has a higher potential.
i can’t wait for arlo’s future contributions to the art world.