Arlo Parks, "Collapsed in Sunbeams"
Have you ever listened to a song that awakened all kinds of emotion in you at once? Maybe it was the instrumentals: the twang of a guitar, the plink of a piano. Maybe it was the voice of the artist that resonated with you. Or the expressive lyrics, used to tell a unique story. Arlo Parks has skillfully incorporated each of these elements into her debut album, “Collapsed In Sunbeams.”
Arlo Parks was born and raised in London by her two parents, along with her younger brother. She started speaking French before English, as her mother was born in Paris. Her family is very loving and accepting of her bisexuality. Her full name is Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, and she chose Arlo Parks as her stage name.
Released in January 2021, “Collapsed In Sunbeams” is 21-year-old singer-songwriter Arlo Parks’ first album. It features twelve beautifully written songs, each one telling the listener a story. These stories are very personal and range anywhere from breakups to mental health to abusive relationships.
Though I believe that all of the songs on this album are one-of-a-kind, I do have my favorites. My absolute favorite song by Arlo Parks is titled, “For Violet.” As I interpret it, the song is told from Parks’ perspective as she tries her best to be there for a partner/friend while they are struggling with an abusive parent.
From the lyrics, we can understand that the two are at home for a break after being away at college. This distance is an added factor of difficulty for Parks. She describes long phone calls where she would play music for her friend as an attempt to calm them down and provide relief. She would tell her friend, “Wait, you know when college starts again, you’ll manage.”
What originally stood out to me about this song was the overall sound of it. The beat of the song is truly magical and it may even be my favorite part of the piece. Parks pairs that with her amazing voice and a wide range of other instruments and sounds. After listening to the song a few times, I decided to look into the lyrics so I could better understand what the song was about. I was delighted to uncover this intricate and heartfelt story within a song I already loved.
Another favorite of mine is “Caroline.” I have been listening to this one for a while, as it was originally released as a single in 2020. The song is about a couple whose argument Parks witnessed while waiting for the bus. Even though Parks was not actively involved in this argument, she was still able to create a very emotional song about it.
The best part of this song is Parks’ vocals. She used her voice to perfectly encapsulate the intensity of the situation. A very noticeable part of this song is Parks’ emphasis on the word “Caroline.” This is what the man shouted out to the woman at the bus stop as she ran from him. This is clearly a sad song, but a beautiful one nonetheless.
The very first Arlo Parks song I ever heard was “Eugene.” It was also released as a single before the full album was released. This one is about something Arlo Parks experienced on a more personal level: falling in love with her best friend who is already involved with someone else. She describes her feelings of jealousy towards her best friend’s partner singing, “We’ve been best buds since 13 / But that don’t change the things I feel / Oh, when I see you smile with your teeth at Eugene / Yeah, I can’t deal.”
She also acknowledges the distance that has been created between her and her best friend as a result of this saying, “I know I’ve been a little bit off and that’s my mistake / I kind of fell half in love and you’re to blame.”
The last song I would like to recommend to anyone is “Too Good.” This one has a happier tone, so listen to it when you’re feeling down. Parks wrote it about the person she loves and what she loves about them. The catch is that this person is “too proud” to show Parks that they care.
Though the song is pretty upbeat and fun, it is about something she has struggled with. The reason it has this cheerful vibe is because Parks is hopeful about the situation, singing, “I think you know it / Too cool to show it.”
I have really enjoyed this album ever since its release, and I think you will too. Arlo Parks has categorized her music under the genre of R&B and soul, so whether you are looking for more albums that fit that genre, you are interested in discovering new genres, or you are looking for some good music in general, this is a great place to start.