I clearly remember hearing "Cola" back in 2018 and being mind-blown by that 18-year-old UK girl who poured her heart into a melancholic and at the same time - powerful, song. A debut single that would lead Arlo Parks from her bedroom studio to touring with Jordan Rakei (B.C. = before Corona), being one of the only 3 artists to play on 2020's Glastonbury, and performing on COLORS & Tiny Desk Concerts. In the past couple of years, we've also seen her collaborate with artists like Glass Animals, Easy Life & more.
Referring to herself more often as a poet, rather than just a singer-songwriter, it wasn't a big surprise that the album starts with a poem - and that being the title track. Here's what she shares about the record:
My album is a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding my adolescence and the people that shaped it. It is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia – I want it to feel both universal and hyper-specific.
We've already featured the majestic singles "Eugene" & "Black Dog" (the latter is, honestly, one of the most touching & beautiful depression-related, but somehow positive, songs out there), and you most probably already spun "Hurt", "Caroline", "Hope" and "Green Eyes". Most of these tracks carry her signature mellowness and sorrow, embodied in both her voice and lyrics but those last two showed us a different perspective of her music - fresher and more upbeat.
If you've enjoyed that side of Arlo Parks more, you'll definitely vibe with the new additions "Too Good" and "Just Go" - they most certainly bring sunshine to this gloomy January. And in case you prefer her melancholic work, "For Violet" is your tune.
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But to me, the highlight of the album is definitely "Bluish" - my jaw dropped when I heard the future-beats rhythm & the space synths that intertwined with her smooth vocals. Certainly, a huge surprise - and I get why she kept it towards the end.
And "Portra 400" envelops the album perfectly, with that more uplifting note we've been circling around in this review, and combining some of her diverse influences - hip hop, soul, and jazz.
Playing Collapsed In Sunbeams from start to end is flawless and would hopefully remind you that life is both ups and downs - and that's okay.