Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine
Arlo Parks has carved out quite a reputation over the past couple of years from the release of her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, in January 2021. It won that year’s Mercury Prize and a range of critical acclaim, revealing Parks as an artist to be reckoned with, her sound blending indie and pop to perfection. Anticipation is naturally high for the release of her second record, My Soft Machine.
It’s another remarkable collection of work, retaining the lo-fi elements of her breakthrough material but proving Parks is not risk-averse as it charts a clear evolution in her style, featuring more textures. Often demonstrating a more upbeat side to her palette, it’s a series of tracks that exhibits maturity beyond her years (remarkably, still 22) and shows she is willing to tackle darker areas, notably on the stunning Purple Phase that deals with a friend who is struggling.
It’s the balance in genres that makes this such an accomplished achievement. The artist knows when to expand beyond what fans might expect, while remaining rooted in the more mellow, lyrically driven output that has earned her such acclaim.
Impurities flawlessly borrows sonic textures from Park’s travels in Japan, immediately at home within her wider oeuvre, and an instant high point that shows real depth and foregrounds Parks’s vocals. Weightless is a wonderful encapsulation of her wider work, marrying several styles to fine effect with hints of hiphop beats and a broader indie sound overlapping to brilliant effect.
Pegasus features the ever-in-demand Phoebe Bridgers, who seems a natural fit for a collaboration with Parks, their vocals and styles synchronising in symmetry. It’s a luscious laidback listen that is an album standout – perhaps the finest piece Parks has released to date. Blades contrasts this, among the record’s livelier moments, retaining the lyricism found elsewhere but with a poppier edge to it.
My Soft Machine comfortably clears the hurdle of the difficult second LP: far from a carbon copy of her debut, with an admirable range of styles and signs of real artistic growth, it further cements Arlo Parks as one of the most talented musicians of her generation. These are 12 tracks of the highest order and will only whet appetites for where she takes her sound next.
My Soft Machine is released on 26th May 2023. For further information or to order the album visit Arlo Parks’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Pegasus here: