To be saddled with the tag of the "Voice Of A Generation" is a lot of pressure for a 20 year old, but London's Arlo Parks appears to be taking it calmly in her stride. Currently submerged in a wave of hype and critical acclaim, her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams isn't to be argued with - it does, in fact, signify the arrival-proper of a major new talent.
She released her debut single - 'Cola' - only two years ago, quickly attracting the attention of Transgressive Records and virtually every music observer and tastemaker worldwide. She's cover Radiohead and received not-so-silent love and support from Billie Eillish, Glass Animals, Lily Allen, Phoebe Bridgers, songwriter and producer Paul Epworth and every one in between. Two EPs - Super Sad Generation (2018) and Sophie (2019) - followed (vinyl fans, you can get both on wax via a split release also called Super Sad Generation) and a subsequent slieu of singles have led us to this point and are included on Collapsed In Sunbeams. She played her first ever show at The Great Escape in Brighton, UK, and since at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival and supported (Brisbane's own) Jordan Rakei on his tour of the UK in 2019. Fast forward to now and she just made her debut appearance on American Network television with Jimmy Kimmel Live!
What makes her remarkable - aside from her tranquil and sagacious voice and assured songwriting with the emotional depth and maturity of someone at least twice her age - is her humility and benevolence for humanity that seems to drive the human being herself. She calls herself an empath – someone deeply attuned to other people’s feelings – but on a personal level, Arlo struggled with her identity growing up; a self-confessed tom-boy who was super sensitive and "uncool," she says it was like "I'm a black kid who can't dance for shit, listens to emo music and currently has a crush on some girl in my Spanish class." By the time she reached 17, she shaved her head, figured out she was bisexual and produced/wrote an album's worth of material.
I'm blowing bubbles in the faces of thugs
I'm smoking licorice tobacco for lunch yeah
I'm still denying that I'm anxious as fuck
And I'm lacking in trust
And I think my art sucks (it sucks)
I look inside my head with disgust
I would say it to my mates but they're probably drunk so I listen to funk
I bend to the punch
Then pretend that I'm fine when really I'm crushed
- lyrics from 'Sophie' (2019) (LISTEN)
Growing up in South West London - half Nigerian, a quarter Chadian and a quarter French - Arlo learned to speak French before English. A quiet child, she'd write short stories and create fantasy worlds, later journaling and then obsessing over spoken word poetry, reading American poets such as Ginsberg and Jim Morrison and watching old Chet Baker performances on YouTube. These days she references Nayyirah Waheed, Hanif Abdurraqib and Iain S. Thomas as her favorite modern poets, and it is clear that their works are as influential on her songwriting as any musician.
Her songs are the huge musical hug we need in this crazy, uncertain world right now, embracing topical subjects of mental health, self discovery and, naturally, growth. She is compassionate, and her words are full of reassurance that everything is going be okay - simple lines void of frills, low key referencing her experiences while astutely tapping into society's shared human experiences. Sonically, she achieves a lot on ...Sunbeams. Erykah Badu and jazz greats creep into her understated, jazz-infused sound, but simultaneously colliding with R&B touchstones like Frank Ocean and Lianne La Havas. And just when you think you have her sound pegged, her not-so-secret love of Radiohead and King Krule bubble to the forefront. Her dream-like, honeyed vocal ties it all together and makes the hotpot of sounds belong to no one else but Arlo Parks and Arlo Parks alone. She has arrived and she doesn't want you to just feel, she wants you to think.
ARLO PARKS' COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS IS THE FEBRUARY RECORD OF THE MONTH
THIS MONTH'S CLUB EXPERIENCE INCLUDES:
FIRST PRESSING LP ON VERY LIMITED EDITION 180G DEEP RED VINYL
(SOLD OUT GLOBALLY)
BONUS FOLD-OUT POSTER
Making Peace With Our Own Distortions : Best Of The Lo Fi Lounge
which includes Arlo’s covers of Clairo, Frank Ocean, King Krule and Phoebe Bridgers
a special invitation-only event (must be on mailing list to hear more).