The debut album from London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks covers a complicated set of feelings. The protagonist of “Eugene” falls “half in love” with a best friend who does not reciprocate the desire. She, the protagonist, blames the friend for somehow sparking the attraction. In “Bluish”, Parks sings the part of a person trapped in a stifling relationship who at the same time wants it to be more stifling: “I got so claustrophobic/But you were never close enough.”
Collapsed in Sunbeams negotiates this tricky emotional terrain with impressive clarity. The album, co-written and produced by Gianluca Buccellati, opens with a spoken word intro about the importance of self-honesty. “We’re all learning to trust our bodies, making peace with our distortions,” Parks recites. Her songs are deceptively straightforward. They are built on warm melodies, an appealing sense of rhythm and hazy singsong vocals. But there are deep currents beneath the easy musical flow.
Openness is not to be mistaken for artlessness. Parks, 20, wears her musical influences on her sleeve, but they are assimilated into her own soundworld. “Too Good” ingeniously triangulates between 1990s indie-pop (The Cardigans) and 1990s neo-soul (Erykah Badu). Lyrics and arrangements share a subtle narrative drive. In “Black Dog”, Parks sings about trying to help a depressed friend. Her words are illustrated by an insistent melodic figure that tries to bring relief to a flat, thrumming rhythmic landscape. Melody wins: as the song fades out, it is the last element to be heard.
‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ is released by Transgressive Records