At just 20 years old, London-born artist Arlo Parks (full name, Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho) has proven to be a rare creative storm of youthful courage and insight beyond her years.
Though she herself has noted she’s no old soul or voice of a generation, for the past few years, she has garnered acclaim from critics and praise from fans for her music; a string of EPs that lend itself to the indie pop, trip hop, alt. rock, jazz, R&B variety. What pulls it all together is Parks’ innate singer/songwriter skills that feature thoughtful, well crafted lyrics steeped in reflection and self-expression.
Now, with her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, Parks reveals a whole garden of impressionistic and straightforward observations. The result is a highly relatable album strengthened by its personal origins.
Opening with a spoken word poem, Parks speaks to the world in a simple and vulnerable prose. She imagines herself open to beauty and conjures images of sleepy content and discovery; a daydream set in rich, saturated colors.
From there, she dives into the Stoic mantra “Hurt,” a single she released last spring, that dissects the impermanence of pain. Offering solace, she lulls a compassion and empathy that beats through a young and inquisitive heart.
Keeping her heart on her sleeve, Parks writes delicately about her subjects, taking care to reveal some bit of truth out of each experience, but without laying down a final judgement or opinion.
Arlo Parks sings about the quarreling couple she sees while waiting at the bus stop in “Caroline”; in “For Violet,” she reaches out a hand to a hopeless friend; whispers words of longing and lamenting in “Eugene”; and invites us into the vulnerable space of depression with “Black Dog.”
By stitching together different themes, both personal and observational, Parks constructs an adjacent reality where she can explore these spaces in detail and at a distance. Her view is a unique one, seen not through the view of rose tinted glasses, but a high precision kaleidoscope.
Like a long distance runner, Parks paces herself, mixing jazzy interludes with tightly woven beats that drum out a steady and moving rhythm. Nothing ever seems out of place, and ideas transition just as easily as the melodies.
Co-written with Gianluca Buccellati, who also produced much of the album, Collapsed in Sunbeams is a formidable debut album for Parks who benefits from Gianluca’s producing prowess, as her and vocals are perfectly captured in the production value and musical arrangements.
It’s an album where pain and pleasure are a part of the same palette, summed up best in the lyrics of the last song, “Porta 400” where Parks notes how she’s sometimes pushed to make “rainbows out of something painful.”
Words: Patti Sanchez