If you’ve been anywhere near TikTok in the last year, you’ve heard Arlo Parks’ gentle guitar and kind voice serenading you. The soundtrack to many people’s quarantine walks in the park, spring anthems, and soft acoustic folk pop are all encapsulated in Parks’ latest LP: Collapsed in Sunbeams. I’ve heard plenty of hype about this project, and can’t wait to unpack it, so read on for the review.
I’ve only heard one song by Parks to date: “Black Dog”. The sweet song is from the perspective of a loved one helping a friend through mental illness through care, concern and gifts. It has an easy instrumental perfect for windows down driving, and lyrics that really touch your soul. It’s a part of the album, so I can’t wait to see how it fits in with the remainder of the tracklist.
Track by Track:
Collapsed In Sunbeams: This intro sets a tranquil tone for the rest of the project, as Parks recites a poem of acceptance and rest over a plucky guitar. This is reminiscent of the eponymous interlude that opens Sabrina Claudio’s “About Time,” gently bringing the listener into the world Parks has created.
Hurt: A steady jazz-tinged bass carries this full length track, which reassures the subject of the song that it “won’t hurt so much forever”. Parks weaves this narrative with a sensuous melody and sensitive lyricism about a fictitious figure named “Charlie”.
Too Good: The sunny electric guitar riff and doo-wop beat brighten up the palette of the record, already creating the perfect summer soundtrack! As Parks croons about a potential lover who’s simply too good to be true, listeners can head-bop and dance along to their hearts’ content. We’ve all been there.
Hope: Parks perfects her coffeehouse-jazz-pop formula on this track, weaving another story of isolation through a character’s lens. “You’re not alone” is the refrain of the chorus, offering hope to the listener. If you need a pick me up or reminder of the hope you can have, check this track out.
Caroline: This song is one of the few singles on the album, aptly chosen for its smooth melancholy and classic sound. The guitar on this track is a standout, as is the drums. For rainy days, bus rides and yearning for ones you’ve lost, “Caroline” is the track for the occasion.
Black Dog: Again, I’ve loved this track for almost a year! I heard it in early quarantine when the isolation in your bedroom Parks speaks of was all too new. It really uplifted me. The sunny chords and smooth production create a glowing atmosphere for Parks’ vocals, in a blend that’s sure to encourage you and pick you up.
Green Eyes: This track always reminds me of “Love Affair” by Umi, a renowned contemporary of Parks! Both tracks have a lilting melody and hypnotic sound that will be stuck in your head for hours after listening. Even though it’s a breakup anthem, you’d hardly be able to tell!
Just Go: Similar to its predecessor, this is the perfect song to blast when you want that one ex to just leave you alone. Catchy and following in the footsteps of “Green Eyes”, this is my favorite of the pair (which I consider a matched set).
For Violet: Parks slows the tempo for this track, creating a spacey, almost empty sounding echo of a song. The lyrics tell a story of supporting someone through a storm or tough stage in life, with a darker tone throughout. This is one of my standouts for the album, for sure, because of its unique sound.
Eugene: This song comes from a personal narrative of an unrequited crush on a straight girl romantically involved with Eugene, another man. Parks reportedly wrote this on the bus on a night ride, and the personal story can easily extend to others.
Bluish: If you’ve ever had that stifling feeling in a relationship or friendship, this track is for you. An upbeat beat and synth that builds on the melody and harmonies Parks introduces make this track reminiscent of Clairo-style bedroom pop!
Portra 400: A triumphant album closer with a brisk beat and lovesick lyrics, this track will leave you with a smile on your face the whole time. Sonically one of my favorites, I think its placement in the record is impeccable.
If you’ve ever wished there were more Black artists in folk pop, jazz, and acoustic folk spaces, wish no longer. Parks is changing the game for artistry and musical craft, by curating live sets that bound the boundaries of her tracks and standing out amongst her peers. I give this album a 9/10, and recommend it to all!
By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young Magnet High School