Label: Transgressive Records
Released: 26th May 2023
Talk about having something to live up to second time around. With the Mercury and BRIT winning (and Grammy-nominated) ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ under her belt, the weight of expectation on Arlo Parks’ follow-up carries the weight of a star. But let’s get this out of the way early, shall we? ‘My Soft Machine’ is as close to perfection as it gets. A sumptuous, sun-drenched record that feels custom-made for summer, it is an utter triumph.
From the opening crackle and hiss of a record playing on opener ‘Bruiseless’, the record whisks you into Arlo’s inner world – complete with all the insecurities and anxiety of anyone living and moving through their 20s. As easy to let the lyrics sink in and be digested as it is to let the lush soundwaves wash over you, it’s a ‘walk on a sunny day with big headphones on’ kind of record – with frequent pivots in sound and mood like the electrifying jolt of guitars on ‘Devotion’. Whether it is the soulful grooves of the romantic ‘Blades’ or the dreamy chiming guitar of the more melancholic ‘Purple Phase’, it’s a masterclass in setting a mood and entrancing the listener.
It’s a mark of how good this album is that it is hard to pick a standout moment. Phoebe Bridgers drops in for ‘Pegasus’, a track that is an exquisite mash-up of two absolute legends at the top of their game, while ‘Dog Rose’ soars into the heavens. Even when exploring some of the tougher moments that she has gone through in recent years, it is still an uplifting and triumphant listen. Absolute top-tier music at its best here.