Arlo Parks: My Comfortable Machine — a flip to pop suffocated by excessive expectations

“Once I take into consideration how I made the document, it’s very private and personal,” Arlo Parks advised the FT final yr about her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. Sourced from the west Londoner’s teenage diaries, its songs had been a fine-grained mix of intently noticed emotions and easy-going tunes. “I lick the grief proper off your lips,” runs the attention-grabbing opening line to a monitor about melancholy, set to a hazy Hammersmith daydream of bossa nova.

Launched in 2021 when she was 20, the album was a essential and business hit. It gained the Mercury prize and gained its maker greatest newcomer award on the Brits. Admirers included Billie Eilish, who recruited the singer-songwriter as a touring assist act. To Parks’ discomfort, commentators hailed her because the voice of Gen Z. Her “very private and personal” album had turned her right into a public determine.

Its follow-up presents her with a quandary. Collapsed in Sunbeams managed to sound relaxed with itself whereas telling tales of younger individuals who don’t really feel relaxed with themselves. This delicate chemistry was the product of a time and place that success has taken her away from. At one stage, it’s an enviable state of affairs. Nevertheless it additionally requires her, as a still-green songwriter, to discover a new register, this time with the eyes of the world on her. 

My Comfortable Machine stumbles on the hurdle. The album’s title is taken from a movie, The Memento, as its predecessor was named after a phrase from a Zadie Smith novel. Like its predecessor it opens with a recited poem, this time an overburdened affair about grownup ache and childhood innocence. The songs’ mellow beats are sharper and extra polished, a dial shift in direction of mainstream pop. Indie textures are utilized with a level of self-consciousness, just like the refined echo of a Pixies riff in “Canine Rose”. 

Album cover of ‘My Soft Machine’ by Arlo Parks

Lyrics inform of relationships in younger maturity. There are fewer characters than in Collapsed in Sunbeams, and likewise extra repetition. Sing-song refrains with discouraging sentiments about not trusting others or figuring out what to do attempt to flip adverse ideas into melodious music, however lack the vibrancy of earlier than. Parks’ unforced voice sounds smoother and extra generic. “Tethered to the particular person you might be,” she sings in “Weightless” of a troublesome lover she doesn’t need to hand over on. The identical may be stated of this album, tethered as it’s to a greater predecessor, and likewise an unhelpful weight of expectation.


My Soft Machine’ is launched by Transgressive


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