Music Reviews
Collapsed in Sunbeams

Arlo Parks Collapsed in Sunbeams

(Transgressive Records) Rating - 7/10

One of the greatest joys of listening to Arlo Parks' long-anticipated debut, Collapsed in Sunbeams, is how she finds meaning in the small moments. Whatever the mood strikes, Parks uplifts with her detailed observations—an ability she first hinted at with the efficient bedroom pop of her two EPs Super Sad Generation and Sophie. Sunbeams sounds larger and brighter by comparison, as she seamlessly declaims her thoughts alongside hip-hop beats and soulful touches. Parks' talent as a lyricist is a major selling point, no question—though it raises the question of whether or not the music which accompanies it holds any value.

The short answer to that question is, well, yes. From the angelic-sounding strums of Black Dog to the funk-meets-droning soundscapes of Hurt, Parks playfully adds references to Twin Peaks and The Cure's Robert Smith over soft, dreamy introspections. Her music adheres to the basic tenets of bedroom pop but somehow transcends them, easily eclipsing the yearning, confessional songwriting of artists like Conan Gray and Clairo with melodic sophistication. Listen to the lush, jazzy chords and light, experimental touches of Hope without thinking about Nina Persson and The Cardigans during their prime. She's a malleable songwriter whose voice blends in with any sound she chooses.

That said, the hazy production in Sunbeams does, to an extent, water down some of Parks' poetic musings and reduce them to pleasant background music. Even if there are hardly any low points here, the forceful sentiments of past songs like Angel's Song and Romantic Garbage are sorely absent—both of which are just mellow as this project but more musically rewarding. Somehow, trying to fit Parks into a "mood" is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Still, getting lost in the world Parks takes us in is surely captivating and invites deep reflection. But once the moment has passed, you wonder if it carries any lasting impact. With such a well-defined voice this early into her career, it makes sense that her creative impulses are currently in flux.