My Soft Machine by Arlo Parks album review by Adam Fink for Northern Transmissions


My Soft Machine

Arlo Parks

About the title of Arlo Parks great new album My Soft Machine, Parks describes its inspiration. There is a quote from a Joanna Hogg film called The Souvenir, it’s an A24 semi-autobiographical film with Tilda Swinton – it recounts a young film student falling in love with an older, charismatic man then being drawn into his addiction – in an early scene he’s explaining why people watch films – ‘we don’t want to see life as it is played out we want to see life as it is experienced in this soft machine.’ So there we have it… My Soft Machine.” The album describes Parks life through her lens. Issues such as mid 20 anxieties, personal trauma and grief and moving through the world with love and wonder in her particular body. While this all sounds super heady, Park approaches the material with a soft grace. There’s forgiveness for herself and others. It’s all so wonderfully rendered and, while it’s all her own experiences, it’s completely relatable.

The album begins with an almost idea of a song. “Bruiseless” may be brief but it’s a beautiful opening. She sings over a crisp breakbeat and synth stabs, “I wish I was Bruiseless/Almost everyone I love has been abused and I am included”. She pines for a time when she was blameless while even realizing that she bears no blame for these transgressions. Again, this seems like dark and dramatic stuff but Parks grounds it with such sensitivity that it’s easy to see why her appeal is so wide. Musically the album veers from neo-soul on “Impurities” where Parks “radiates like a star” to the guitar heavy bridge of “Devotion”. While that all may seem like such opposite approaches, it all works perfectly. Perhaps it’s the autobiographical nature of the songs or just Parks innate ability to make whatever she does her own.

My Soft Machine is a real showcase for Parks songwriting and singing. It’s all so poetic and airy and upon active listens heartbreaking and beautiful. Her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams was so widely lauded and it’s nice to hear that was no fluke. She is the kind of artist that is able to navigate even the toughest emotions on a real and tangible level. Listening to My Soft Machine her work seems effortless but that’s obviously not the case otherwise so many artists would be operating at her high level. Parks is the real deal and an emerging artist that we will be celebrating for some time to come.

order My Soft Machine by Arlo Parks HERE


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