Collapsed in Sunbeams
2021 • ROCK/POP • TRANSGRESSIVE
The 20-year-old British poet debuts with a light and stripped project, full of feelings and important subjects. However, it doesn’t seem to know when and where to stop.
Nowadays, it is difficult to find a truly unique composer, who can bring all his feelings to his words and still create captivating tracks, while still remaining as the main author of his work, without many external influences. Probably the last person like that we heard from was Taylor Swift, who, in addition to creating extremely memorable songs in both pop, country, and alternative music, remained the primary composer of her songs, when she was not solely responsible for the detailed and vivid from your songs. Literally, Swift tore the pages of her diaries and played for everyone to hear them. As much as the British singer Arlo Panks does not expose her diary, she puts herself in the shoes of other people and observes the world, and from there creates exterior stories rich in details, which form her magical debut, Collapsed in Sunbeams.
Parks is a 20-year-old poet and she uses this quality as the most powerful and dominant weapon on her first album. “You shouldn’t be afraid to cry in front of me. I promise,” she says on the first track, a spoken word song that she wrote and recorded in her own room. She establishes for the listener that he can feel comfortable and need not be afraid to tune in to the stories she will tell him. “You are not alone,” she says later. Magically, you feel comfortable with the songs, which have deep lyrics but do not need a refined language to convey emotions and morals, and a minimalist instrumental that is rarely the main act of the tracks, but rather a concrete background for Parks’ excellent chronicles.
The best songs Arlo wrote for Collapsed in Sunbeams tell stories outside of her or at least show her incarnating in the shoes of others to experience and understand some feelings. In “Caroline,” alongside guitar chords and atmospheric synthesizers that make the track vibrate in the 1980s, Arlo narrates about a couple fighting that she saw once at the bus stop. “Threw her necklace in his face/Eyes so bright with disappointment/I saw something inside her break,” she sings. Meanwhile, in “Too Good” she becomes a girl who loves a boy who does not show reciprocity alongside subtle psychedelic beats from the 70s, and in the invigorating “Green Eyes,” she is a girl who falls in love with her friend, who faces homophobic parents and prejudiced looks. She sings, “Some of these folks wanna make you cry/But you gotta trust how you feel insi-i-i-ide.” In such cases, the stories are so credible that they flow naturally.
Beside that, when she is not telling these stories, she is working on subjects like depression, writing beautiful poetry — and these are the most powerful moments on the album even though they present some dubious lyrical choices. She still works with characters, however, now they suffer much more. In “Hurt,” Charlie spends all day watching Twin Peaks because he is suffering from depression. Arlo advises, “Just know it won’t hurt so.” “Black Dog,” in turn, is even darker and deeper while being stripped. The track again features a combination of a few string chords and refined synthesizers. “Sometimes it seems like you won’t survive this/And honestly it’s terrifying,” she sings about Alicia, her friend who has been suffering from severe depression. Finally, the most intense of all may be “Hope,” in which Arlo speaks directly to us. “You’re not alone like you think you are/We all have scars, I know it’s hard,” she speaks and provides the most comfortable moment of Collapsed in Sunbeams. And in a way, you feel comforted.
While the best of the album is concentrated in the beginning, the final stretch of Collapsed in Sunbeams is immovable and saturated. The last songs on the album seem to mix negatively, creating a mess in which it is difficult to distinguish one track from another — the sound may even be a little different but in the end, everything sounds the same. Also, they seem to get more and more minimalist and without personality, which in a way gets even more serious since it is at the end of the album that we should receive something more interesting because we have gone through a lot to get there. In the end, in general, Arlo’s deep but minimalist stories seem to have no conclusion since the last track seems to refuse to say goodbye — as much as you loved it, you know it’s time to say it.