Arlo Parks, Collapsed Into Sunbeams
One of the most anticipated full-length debuts of 2021, Collapsed Into Sunbeams more than makes good on English singer-songwriter Arlo Parks’ early promise, with 12 tracks as warmly produced, tenderly delivered and exquisitely penned as a set of its title would imply. Parks deals with love, depression, anxiety and joy on Sunbeams, but it’s her empathy — as when she offers “I could never blame you, darling” to a publicly closeted ex in “Green Eyes” — over laid-back indie-soul grooves that stands out. But it never comes at the expense of her own self-respect, with Parks declaring of a suffocating relationship on “Bluish”: “When I ask for space, I shouldn’t have to ask you twice.” — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
“I’m crazy but you like that,” proclaims singer-rapper Ashnikko on her Demidevil opener “Daisy,” ably setting the stage for one for some of the best, most in-control pop mania you’ll hear on a 2021 mixtape. She borrows Kelis’ most furious hook to convince an ex to back off on “Deal With It,” plays a game of Mrs. Steal Your Girl with Princess Nokia on “Slumber Party,” and invokes Avril Lavigne’s most beloved kiss-off with “L8er Boi,” reducing that song’s love triangle to a love single (“She’s in love with her damn self”). “F–k a princess, I’m a king,” she also insists on the project’s kickoff, and the evidence there is similarly overwhelming. — A.U.
Brockhampton, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine