Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine


At just 22 years of age, Arlo Parks has quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Racking up endless critical acclaim with his poetic and lyrically dense debut, Collapsed in sunbeamsParks’ bedroom pop aesthetic and tender voice offered a shoulder to cry on in the midst of a pandemic as she tackled issues of anxiety, depression and addiction. The London-born singer’s sophomore project certainly avoids the sophomore curse, expanding on her debut and building the musical aspects to match the lyrical side even more than before. With veteran producers like Paul Epworth, Ariel Rechtshaid and BROCKHAMTON’s Romil on board, my smooth machineThe instrumental palate of is a bit more infused with energy, from more intricate drum rhythms to the odd heavier guitar part ripping its way through. Parks’ voice is as calm yet strong and self-assured as ever. It’s the perfect album to come out at the end of a bleak May for music.

Parks’ latest album opened with a spoken word piece from the former poet, and this one does the same with the song “Bruiseless,” though this time the ethereal backdrop is replaced by a drum n’ bass groove that slips and fades. escape. more of the sense of a Parks rap flow. Wishing for the simpler times of childhood innocence, the piece becomes “Impurities”. Producer Romil leads the track with a melody built with unique and captivating synth tones; they almost sound like they were ripped from a traditional Chinese folk song. There’s something about Parks’ music that feels mantric, as if listeners are meant to sit primarily for catharsis or to be cleansed. While much of Collapsed in sunbeams he lost some points musically for this reason, due to repetitive content and not being so adventurous with the melodies (and this song is more like the one on the album), Parks’ dynamic performance, which is reduced to a whisper at times , and the genuine warmth with which he sings it makes it all the more effective. “Devotion” is even stronger – the way it blends so you can hear the screeching of the hands moving along the guitar frets despite the funk beat and complexity on display is great – and the song in Yeah sounds like devotion: timid steps, and then all at once. Repeating “all yours, baby,” Parks’ upper register as emotion bubbles above and she says something like “your eyes destroying me” is truly amazing, all leading to a sudden, unexpected but certainly welcome drop of guitars. dirty in the end.

The track “Blades” further dives into an ’80s-inspired sound, which, apparently, was actually inspired by Missy Elliott and Kaytranada, and it shows. With massive drum hits, random hi-hats and a flower boySet to a funky synth arrangement, Parks sings about plucking up the courage to finally make a lasting friendship romantic. The more up-tempo instrumentals go so well with Parks’s voice because there’s something he’s juxtaposed with now, and despite his unique ragged breath, there’s nothing weak about his playing – he still holds his own and is kind of warm and welcoming to listen as she helps us navigate the anxieties of life. A familiar concept for Parks appears in “Purple Phase” when he tries to inject a little light into the life of a friend who is going through a difficult time, but here he explains it even more poetically than before. “I just want to see your lovely iridescent cats coming down from the trees” has to be the best way to express the hope of seeing the end of the darkest of times. The way Parks puts things could only come from a poet: he refers to the good times as “strawberry days” on the next track, “Weightless”. Again, something about the throbbing bass on this one feels like a warm blanket; finally, the music feels as intimate and immersive on the headphones as Parks’ voice ever did. With a change of pace and a fun rap verse, it’s the lead single and it feels like it.

The only guest on the album is a big one, as Phoebe Bridgers appears on the song “Pegasus.” It’s one of the sparser arrangements here, until Bridgers’ harmonies appear in the chorus and a beat drops. Bridgers doesn’t have his own verse, but the two of them sound really angelic together as they sing about true love calling attention to little moments that show they care, plus it’s great to hear some old school hip-hop chants and growls. buried in the mix on a track that has Bridgers on it. The dedication to the blissful celebration of love erupts into full-blown joy on the pop-rock song “Dog Rose,” as Parks briefly wonders if she’s being too forward before deciding he doesn’t care about her anymore. This one could have fit perfectly in the Japanese breakfast. anniversary, right down to the crunchiest distortion at the end of the chorus. The dog-related titles continue on “Puppy,” a track on which Parks said he wanted to capture Frank Ocean’s conversational, half-sung cadence. He pairs it with a glitchy instrumental that stands out here for its uniqueness, but for all the very warm melodies on this project, it seems like it doesn’t fully cater to Parks’ strengths.

For all the positivity to be found on the project, “I’m Sorry” finds Parks retreating into some of the feelings he tries to avoid elsewhere. Shyly admitting that he finds it hard to open up to people, the bass line sounds a bit like a slower version of Thundercat’s TikTok hit “Them Changes,” showing just how much the instruments have improved here. “Room (red wings)” has to be one of the most memorable hooks of the entire project, as an exasperated and heartbroken Parks just wants to have dessert in a room overlooking a dusty jazz beat and some of his most striking songs. high notes, before “Ghost” nicely sums up the themes shown with a hint about being able to accept help when he needs it.

Parks burst onto the music scene in a big way with her debut, but my smooth machine is a step up in every way for this listener. Always one to bring an exciting turn of phrase and heady vocal delivery, the instruments now feel as essential as the vocalist delivering them. Still incredibly young, there has to be a whole host of Grammys in her future.

Favorite Songs: Devotion, Weightless, Dog Rose, Room (Red Wings), Pegasus

Least Favorite Track: Puppy

Score: 9/10


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