When Arlo Parks declared herself part of the “Super Sad Generation” last year, it wasn’t hyperbolic or simplistic. And now, As the Class of 2020 virtually graduates and thousands are hit with chemical weapons and rubber bullets, the title track from her debut EP resonates harder, even feels prophetic. The 19-year-old Londoner has seen many shades of sadness, and “Super Sad Generation” is a spell against a variety of them—most prominently mourning. “We’re tryna to keep our friends from death,” she sings soberly. It’s a battlecry against how her generation is suffering and a recognition that even when the youth are wasting time and losing money that it’s still a form of survival. Her latest single “Black Dog,” is an even more vivid portrayal of mental health struggles.
Depression has been masquerading as man’s best friend for centuries, although the image of the the “black dog” is heavily associated with Winston Churchill. The menacing four-legged shadow looms over a neatly strummed guitar and pearly piano plucks as Parks struggles with her own anxieties while watching a loved one fight self-withering. “It’s so cruel/What your mind can do for no reason,” goes the chorus. Her voice is soft like newly knitted cashmere. But it’s her thoughtful writing and her demeanor, not her pacifying vocals, that illustrate Parks is carrying the utmost grace. She’s well aware that there’s not logic or immediate remedy for her friend. Instead, she encourages finding peace in modest comforts, even if it’s just getting outside and going to the corner store that carries fresh fruit.
Parks is a powerful writer, wielding potent visuals that not only allow her songs to be three-dimensional and accessible, but personal and specific. She glitters verses with nods to Jimi Hendrix and My Chemical Romance. Her inspiration from the melancholic, poetic, and palpable King Krule is apparent. Things are pretty fucking glib at the moment, but Arlo Parks has a brilliant future ahead of her. Sympathy can be revolutionary, I would imagine Parks writing the frontline.