Arlo Parks Review – Heartbreaking and Frustrating | Arlo Parks
Outside, night has fallen; inside, it’s still a summer day. This intimate place is decorated with garlands of plastic flowers hanging from the ceiling and wrapped around the mixer.
Blooms are in order as last week, 21-year-old poet and singer Arlo Parks won the Mercury Prize for her debut album, The Very collapsed in the rays of the sun, beating arguably the strongest field of competitors in years: Sault, Celeste and Black Country, New Road, to name just three. Notably, seven of the 12 shortlisted artists this year were black – eight, if you count the intoxicating forays of jazz legend Pharoah Sanders on the collaborative album Floating Points made with the London Symphony Orchestra. At first glance, Parks’ sense of validation this week must be lower than that of young Briton Emma Raducanu.
Parks only mentions the “grand prize” she won at the very end of her set, but her farewell glow accompanies her tender and candid songs throughout. collapsed in the rays of the sun won because he captured the best of British youth in the rough – people barely early in life reeling from poor sanity and unrequited love. These vignettes came with an eye for deep hues – âall amethyst,â âthe deep blue cramp of everythingâ – and a writer’s ear for universals contained in Parks’ own granular experience.
We all know a âCharlie,â the subject of Parks’ first song, Hurt, who numbs his pain in various ways on his own. Even though we’ve never moved a friend, many will resonate with the soft blue that is Green Eyes, in which Parks, the despised lover, is full of compassion for her inamorata, unable to fully engage. All that wise and sweet testimony was there in germ on her 2019 EP. âShut your mouth and take your vitamins, bite your nails and sell your Ritalin,â she coo sadly to Sophie, âI hate that we are. all sick. ” Although Parks has been dubbed the voice of her generation, âsickâ here really isn’t a slang term.
The problem is, the Mercury Prize is awarded for music, and a lot of these tracks don’t sound like award-winning tunes. It is nonetheless true that the murmur of the stream of one listener is the torture of the water of another. But it’s a shame that Parks’ lines of silent devastation are paired with bland rhythms that make you feel like you’re on hold for an hour.
Everything about this heart-wrenching and frustrating album – and its live-action iteration – plays out to a shrug halfway through. All of Parks’ much-observed tales of suffering and helping adolescents are carried by over-tasteful music with moving influences.
Like much recent music, it leans heavily on the ’90s. But if Parks – an artist so dexterous she can turn the microphone around her hand like a jerk – and her chief producer, the new- Yorker Gianluca Buccellati, were inspired by the music of this decade they ran with its more bleak end. Rather than echoing the best trip-hop – the work of Massive Attack or Portishead – these productions echo the flabby facsimiles of the genre, the stuff they played in DJ bars to distracted people trying out Red Bull. recently arrived with vodka for the first time. There’s also a strange disconnect between the intensity of Parks’ lyricism and the preset festival below.
On Eugene Tonight, the protagonist of Parks is in a loaded love triangle. This music has at least a welcome twist from the xx on it; a current of uneasiness. “I hate this son of a bitch,” she says. But his depth of feeling goes unnoticed, musically. It’s not that angsty lyricism has to be paired with emo fireworks (or, worse, a piano ballad); it’s that there are ways to bring drama to the fore, even in music as easygoing as Parks’s. The group that just gets a little stronger doesn’t cut it.
The good news is that collapsed in the rays of the sun sounds much better live than on record, as Parks has a team of nine – two backing vocals, drums, funky bass, two guitars, keyboardist and brass – to inject vim into the same shuffle. The bad news is that the saxophone and trumpet, which could have brought bittersweetness, wisdom, terror and triumph to these songs, are criminally underused: just a parp here or a swell there. Caroline could come out in a burst of glory; it’s just a nice song instead. It’s a mystery why an artist who could aim for the assured punch of a ’90s icon like Lauryn Hill should end up, musically, for Dido-hood instead. Parks’ radical 21st-century empathy deserves glittering plinths, not those damp sandcastles.