Born Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho in West London to Nigerian and French-Chadian parents, Parks grew up as “a black kid who couldn’t dance for s***, listened to emo music and had a crush on a girl in my Spanish class”. She began writing to escape into a fantasy life, quickly establishing a style that combines emotional directness with authenticity. Inspired by artists such as Elliott Smith, Jill Scott, Frank Ocean and Portishead; at the age of only 17, she began sending demos to the BBC. Success came quickly. Her trip-hoppy 2018 debut single “Cola”, which featured heavily in Michaela Coel’s BBC drama I May Destroy You, was written with producer Luca Buccellati and to date has been streamed over 15 million times on Spotify.
“Collapsed in sunbeams, stretched out open to beauty however brief or violent I see myself ablaze with joy, sleepy eyed, feeding your cat or slicing artichoke hearts I see myself sitting beside you, elbows touching, hurt and terribly quiet The turquoise in my ring matches the deep blue cramp of everything We're all learning to trust our bodies, making peace with our own distortions You shouldn't be afraid to cry in front of me. I promise.”
Opening with soothing poetry, we are promised of what is to follow; a theme of loneliness, depression and primitive relationships and beautiful naturalism all wrapped in rawness, unending warmth and authenticity. After months of well-deserved hype and outstanding singles, 20-year-old London-based songwriter Arlo Parks is out with her debut album “Collapsed in Sunbeams”. Parks shares via Apple music:
“I knew that I wanted poetry in the album, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going to sit. This spoken-word piece is actually the last thing that I did for the album, and I recorded it in my bedroom. I liked the idea of speaking to the listener in a way that felt intimate—I wanted to acknowledge the fact that even though the stories in the album are about me, my life and my world, I’m also embarking on this journey with listeners. I wanted to create an avalanche of imagery. I’ve always gravitated towards very sensory writers—people like Zadie Smith or Eileen Myles who hone in on those little details. I also wanted to explore the idea of healing, growth and making peace with yourself in a holistic way. Because this album is about those first times where I fell in love, where I felt pain, where I stood up for myself and where I set boundaries.”
“Black Dog”; the lead album single has been hailed as a “pandemic anthem” and rightfully so. The melody in this track is long, light and delicate. Over this, Parks desperately tries to lift a friend from severe depression: “I'd lick the grief right off your lips,” she sings, clear and sweet. “Let's go to the corner store and buy some fruit/ I would do anything to get you out your room.” There’s a beautiful clarity to both her words and her diction. Even though her topic is sad, you can hear the pleasure she gets from words as she gives the “t” of fruit a crisp tap of the teeth. It seems Parks has mastered the skill of sharing all our fears and anxieties with halting clarity then prompting us to become “ablaze with joy, feeding a cat or slicing artichoke hearts…” It’s no wonder that Parks’ music has struck with a lot of us struggling with lockdown. In the closing track of the album “Bluish”, Arlo Parks sings “I’m always making rainbows out of something painful,”. She consistently and organically pulls these tricks repeatedly throughout the album referring to the “black dog” of depression, “strawberry cheeks” of frustrated rage and the imagined “amethyst kiss” of unrequited love. This and many more reason are why this album might just be 2021’s most keenly anticipated debut album.
Overall, Collapsed In Sunbeams feels like Arlo Parks is becoming comfortable with who she is and the adult she has become. There is a melancholy feel to the album, and it is full of diary entries, each track on the album paints a raw tale of her world. Parks’s kind but firm determination to hold difficult feelings and conversations up to the daylight is exactly why this is a solid debut album. These 12 stories almost feel like an interconnected work of art that, as well as being a solid debut effort, sums up her journey from adolescence into adulthood. This album is just the start of her highly-anticipated career, and so far, Parks has more than justified the intense hype that surrounded her.
Listen the album here here - https://arloparks.ffm.to/collapsedinsunbeams
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