Arlo Parks’ 2021 debut Collapsed in Sunbeams marked her as one probably the most resonant voices of her technology, able to capturing our collective anxieties via uniquely poetic language and delicate, laidback melodies. However musically, there was room for development. As a complete, it was somewhat too simple to get misplaced in its soothing sounds and intimate lyrical vignettes, her personal presence generally drifting off into the background. Parks’ sophomore effort, My Gentle Machine, takes important steps in the suitable path, punching up the manufacturing and permitting her to take extra of an lively function slightly than being perpetually locked in that of a eager, empathetic observer. With out fairly swinging for the fences, Parks communicates her sense of ambition by embracing extra clear and intentional songwriting, every selection meant to raise the facility of her phrases – and vulnerability.
A part of the freshness of My Gentle Machine stems from Parks’ transfer to Los Angeles, a call that ended up mirroring the best way she approached the music. “I needed to really feel prefer it was coming from a totally new place,” she lately mentioned. “I needed to really feel prefer it pushed the bounds of what I had performed earlier than.” On ‘I’m Sorry’, one of many extra melancholy cuts on the album, the transfer to LA is a part of a listing of issues – remedy, meditation, fucking the ache away – which have failed to remove the numbness, a state that’s simple to slide into when it masks itself as consolation. However Parks does step out of her consolation zone on My Gentle Machine, at first by bringing herself additional into the fold. “I really feel a lot guilt that I couldn’t guard extra folks from hurt,” she admits on opener ‘Bruiseless’, a disarming confession from an artist whose work has been a balm for therefore many. As if overwhelmed by the ache that may so shortly accumulate between plenty of individuals, she folds in glimpses of pleasure and childhood innocence earlier than the tune fades in simply over a minute.
Extra so than her debut, the album navigates the skinny line between pleasure and desperation in methods which might be vivid and nuanced. On ‘Weightless’, just some shards of affection are sufficient to propel the tune ahead, as Parks clings to the reminiscence of a relationship grown bitter (“Tethered to the particular person you possibly can be/ Re-reading our texts from the strawberry days”). However pleasure doesn’t simply are available bits and items or exist solely previously; there’s a complete sea of it that Parks swims via on songs like ‘Impurities’, ‘Pegasus’, and ‘Canine Rose’, none of which sound fairly like the opposite. With vibrant, dreamy instrumentation, ‘Canine Rose’ is lifted up by helpless devotion as a substitute of drowning in it, whereas ‘Impurities’ basks within the heat glow of group. A visitor look from Phoebe Bridgers shouldn’t be a rarity as of late, nevertheless it does a lot to open up the tune she’s featured in; their interweaving voices on ‘Pegasus’ give it a palpable high quality, the softness of exchanged breaths extra than simply phrases.
On My Gentle Machine, Parks attracts from a extra disparate palette that does wonders for her sound, even when she might lean into it somewhat extra. The apparent affect of Elliott Smith and Frank Ocean now mesh with extra sudden and fewer modern reference factors just like the Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones that gasoline spotlight ‘Devotion’, whose fiery manufacturing is worthy of a line like “Flood me along with your nervous love.” This dynamism extends to ‘Blades’, a deceptively upbeat tune that paints a extra harmful image of devotion, as if to bounce it away. The refrain of ‘Pet’ calls again to Collapsed in Sunbeams‘ ‘Damage’, with “Simply comprehend it received’t damage a lot ceaselessly” now changing into “I do know some issues don’t get simpler/ I do know some issues damage ceaselessly.” On paper, it looks like a regression, nevertheless it’s a testomony to an artist studying to be current with – slightly than making an attempt to precisely symbolize – every thing that’s entangled in her expertise, together with discomfort. In distinction to the silky R&B that encased that tune, she even throws in a My Bloody Valentine-inspired synth that sends the tune flying in one other path. It’s a good balancing act and a little bit of a threat, nevertheless it’s the results of Parks merely trusting her intestine. In spite of everything, you don’t get to manage how the reality washes over you; you possibly can solely select the way to undertaking it.