Album of the Week: Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine | 2023 Week 21
Arlo Parks shakes off the sophomore slump on her second album + new albums from Boy & Bear, Clark, D4vd, Folamour and more!
Difficult second album syndrome AKA the “sophomore slump” has been a term for decades for a reason, with many artists often failing to follow-up their debut record in a way that evolves their sound and pushes them as an artist - while also satisfying their now ravenous fans in that goldilocks zone of “too similar to their first album” and “way too different from their previous sound”.
We can only imagine then the exponential pressure that comes around for a second album when your first was as successful as English singer-songwriter Arlo Park’s 2021 LP Collapsed In Sunbeams was, receiving worldwide acclaim including winning the 2021 Mercury Prize.
After breaking through during the peak of COVID with her single Black Dog, Parks went on to wow everyone with that first record, and now nearly two and a half years later, the follow-up My Soft Machine is here… and very much in the goldilocks zone.
Opening with the spoken word over chilled breakbeats intro of Bruiseless, My Soft Machine sees Parks cover a lot of ground across the albums 12 tracks, most of which have a common theme shine through - love, in all its aspects, from self-love to romantic love.
Touching on boom-bap hip hop influenced indie pop, channelling her 90s alt rock heroes, drawing on funk and disco and throwing some trip hop style beats in are just the tip of the stylistic iceberg, with the record being tied together by Arlo’s smooth & enchanting vocals.
A poppier record than her first without watering things down, My Soft Machine feels like a natural next step in Parks’ musical journey, sure to satisfy fans both old and new.
The best of the rest of this week's records:
Boy & Bear - Boy & Bear [Boy & Bear] AUS
Clark - Sus Dog [Throttle Records] ENG
D4vd - Petals to Thorns [Darkroom/Interscope Records] USA
Indie / Pop
Folamour - Manifesto [FHUO] FRA
Immortal - War Against All [Nuclear Blast] NOR
Kassa Overall - ANIMALS [Warp] USA
R&B / Hip Hop
Matthew Herbert & London Contemporary Orchestra - The Horse [BMG] ENG
Experimental / Electronic
Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte [Island] USA
Indie / Pop
Water From Your Eyes - Everyone's Crushed [Matador / Remote Control] USA