• Robert Prendergast

Arlo Parks - Falling in Love With Music Again

I often find myself awake in the early hours of the morning. Unable to sleep because I’m too busy worrying about myself. Reliving mistakes I made years before. Thinking about people who I used to be close to, but now fearing they have forgotten me. Worrying I am not good enough. Asking myself “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

Photo By: Robert Prendergast

Last Friday I made an exception. I counted down to midnight in anticipation for the release of Arlo Parks’ debut album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’. As soon as it was released I listened to the album in its entirety three times. This was time well spent. I only realise now how much I’ve missed this feeling. I had forgotten what this felt like.

My relationship with music has changed a lot over the last 12 months. While it remains undeniably beautiful it has also become a tool used to bring me down. Nearly all the music I listen to now makes me sad. It reminds me of too much. I would say there is even a chance I have fallen out of love with music. We’ve broken up, but remain friends. Over the last few months playing songs at random on my Spotify has often felt like a game of Russian roulette, with every sixth song breaking my heart and reminding me of unreachable times and people in my past. For a long time music has stopped giving me the joy it once did. It has gone from a way of relaxing to a huge source of anxiety. I even forced myself to try to listen to genres I never usually would in a bid to change my taste in music. It didn’t work.

I still listen to music the same amount every day and have been bringing myself down by doing so. The simple solution would appear to be to stop listening to music. But that just doesn't seem possible, does it?

Then, I discovered Arlo Park. It is safe to say it was love at first listen.

With my headphones on I hear a voice singing to me, looking back at their own youth and adolescence, showing it to be very much like my own. I hear someone telling me about love and disappointment and all the people who shaped who she is. I hear someone, also sat in their room at 2 am reflecting on their life and asking questions. Only she has mastered the art of finding the beauty in the darkness.

We have always been told that moments of pain and suffering will make us stronger. That the hard times won’t last forever. At the time it never seems true does it? But in Arlo Parks' music, I see this. I feel how beautiful pain can be in the long run and how it can be used to produce something so wonderful and pure. Like this album.

It just makes me want to be having a drunken meltdown at Hammersmith Taco Bell.

The album opens with beautiful poetry, giving us the instruction that we should be “making peace with our own distortions”. Feeding into my favourite song on the album, Hurt. If 2020 was a film Hurt would play over the credits. While the message of the song is clear in its repeated lyric “it won’t hurt so much forever”, I hear the advice given and take it on board in a way I never had. Finally, I believe it.

The album continues the same way and explores emotions we have all felt, heartbreak, sadness, taking us through a journey of pain and acceptance. Arlo shares with us her vulnerability and in it, we can see ourselves. She is a poet who writes words that you can imagine both whispering tenderly or screaming into the sky.

But what do you want? Me to tell you about the whole album? Go listen for yourself!

Never have I felt an album be such a reflection of my own mental health and I am certain that this is something I am not alone in feeling. It is raw and Arlo welcomes us inside of her heart and mind to show us her scars, yet lets us know that everything will get better.

However, I have wondered if writing about this for a Mental Health magazine is actually a good idea because she is 20 and it really bums me out that someone younger than me is this talented.

Due to Covid-19 Arlo had to cancel her tour just as she was becoming a superstar. Life was on hold for all. But she acts as a perfect example of how to turn disappointment into productivity. A lesson for everyone. Myself as much as anyone.

Normally these stories make me feel bad that I am not doing more. My usual 2 am response would be “Great! She can turn her pain into an album and I’m just here feeling sorry for myself”. But for some reason, I don’t feel that way here. I feel something indescribable. But isn’t that true of the best music?

Don’t the best sounds you’ve ever heard evoke such a feeling inside you that is so pure that attempting to explain it could never do it justice. Well, that is very much how I feel here. I have really missed feeling this way about music. Arlo Parks music allows me to process all the bad times in my life and all my flaws, as well as everything I want to be, and not make me feel overwhelmed. But makes me feel at peace knowing it is all part of the journey.

I am so close to typing this whole article in all caps to make it clear just how amazing this album is.

So listen to it! Watch the documentary about her on BBC iPlayer ‘Arlo Parks: A Pop Star in a Pandemic’. Do what I did and spend your Universal Credit on a signed vinyl. (as seen in the picture).

I am making sure that I do not take this album for granted. The reason I connected with it is because all other music had turned sour in my ears. Maybe one day this will too. Perhaps in a few years times, I’ll listen to it and associate it with this period of my life. Maybe that will make me too sad to keep listening. It’s very possible.

So I’ve learned to appreciate it now. I owe this album a lot for helping my rediscover my love for music. I would love to know if anyone else has ever had this feeling.

This is an album for people like myself, who find themselves wandering around their rooms at 2 am, worrying about themselves and where their life is going. Let this album buy you a moment of solace, and hopefully takes you one step closer to, as Arlo herself says, “making peace with our own distortions”.

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