Almost out of nowhere, at just 20 years old, alternative singer Arlo Parks made a name for herself with the release of 2021’s Collapsed In Sunbeams, a debut as promising as it was eclectic. Known for her broad taste in music, the London native is back again with another show-stopping album, The Soft Machine. Roughly the same runtime as its predecessor, this new project showcases how effortless Parks makes music-making seem, breezing by each passing track and moving through many complex subjects. If not for her lyrics, which break new ground simply by displaying the complicated day-to-day struggles, Parks’ new album reminds what it’s like to hear an artist whose sound is more developed than entire careers.
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Parks’ voice is at the forefront of why the album impresses, possessing one of the softest in music today, working well for the album’s many topics. Though it’s the only song accompanied by a feature, “Pegasus” exemplifies her penchant for melodies catchy enough to get stuck in your head and just about any surface. Phoebe Bridgers also holds her own, adding to the lullaby sound and lush guitar, which prove their sounds come together easily on a collaboration that now needs a follow-up.
Drums form the album’s backbone, sometimes the sole reason for two tracks sounding wildly different in genre. The difference is punctuated by “Impurities” and “Blades,” songs tied by how sleek and straightforward they are. The former is similar to previous efforts from Parks, falling on the alternative R&B spectrum that’s quickly dominating music no matter an artist’s popularity. It also takes the best of hip-hop production, twisting it to fit the more vulnerable subject matter while keeping it modern.
But of the two, “Blades” takes it for being the best, both on the album and in her career. There’s a lot to appreciate, whether it be the 80s flair of the dance beat or the heavy hi-hats and slappy 808s. Moving forward, it would be a shame not to hear Parks hop on more electronic songs reminiscent of producers like KAYTRANADA.
The hype behind Parks’ rise to prominence is thanks in part to how simple her music is. Never complicated or overly produced, she more or less rides over every song and speaks her truth in relatable vulnerability.
“The world/our view of it is peppered by the biggest things we experience—our traumas, upbringing, vulnerabilities almost like visual snow,” said Parks. “This record is life through my lens, through my body…what it’s like to be trapped in this particular body.”
But if anything, the sky’s the limit for Parks, as she occupies that rare space where artists so early in their careers reach, showing confidence and promise for what’s to come.
Words: David Sosa
The Soft Machine by Arlo Parks is out on all streaming services. For more on new music, follow her on Instagram.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
* = SOLD OUT
5/24 – Kingston, UK @ Pryzm w/ Banquet Records (intimate outstore performance, early show – 5pm)
5/24 – Kingston, UK @ Pryzm w/ Banquet Records (intimate outstore performance)*
5/29 – London, UK – Rough Trade East, Early Show (in-store performance + signing)*
5/29 – London, UK – Rough Trade East, Late Show (in-store performance + signing)*
6/14 – Leeds, UK – The Wardrobe w/ Crash Records (intimate outstore performance)*
6/14 – Leeds, UK – The Wardrobe w/ Crash Records (intimate outstore performance, late show – 9pm)*
7/5 – Tokyo, Japan @ Ebisu Garden Hall*
7/6 – Osaka, Japan @ Umeda Club Quattro
7/8 – Seoul, South Korea @ Musinsa Garage
7/14 – New Plymouth, New Zealand @ Night Light Festival
7/17 – Melbourne, Australia @ Forum
7/20 – Sydney, Australia @ Sydney Opera House
7/22 – Byron Bay, Australia @ Splendour In The Grass
7/23 – Adelaide, Australia @ The Gov
7/25 – Perth, Australia @ Astor Theatre
8/5 – Oxfordshire, UK @ Wilderness Festival
8/26 – Reading, UK @ Reading Festival
8/27 – Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival
9/5 – Dublin, Ireland @ 3Olympia Theatre
9/13 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
9/14 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso*
9/15 – Brussels, Belgium @ Ancienne Belgique
9/17 – Berlin, Germany @ Huxleys Neue Welt*
9/19 – Milan, Italy @ Alcatraz
9/21 – Paris, France @ L’Olympia
9/28 – London, UK @ Eventim Apollo
10/1 – Washington, DC @ All Things Go Festival