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HomeCultureAlbum Evaluation: Arlo Parks, 'My Tender Machine'

Album Evaluation: Arlo Parks, ‘My Tender Machine’

Arlo Parks’ 2021 debut Collapsed in Sunbeams marked her as one essentially the most resonant voices of her technology, able to capturing our collective anxieties by way of uniquely poetic language and delicate, laidback melodies. However musically, there was room for development. As a complete, it was slightly too straightforward to get misplaced in its soothing sounds and intimate lyrical vignettes, her personal presence typically drifting off into the background. Parks’ sophomore effort, My Tender Machine, takes important steps in the correct course, punching up the manufacturing and permitting her to take extra of an lively function reasonably 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 alternative meant to raise the ability of her phrases – and vulnerability.

A part of the freshness of My Tender Machine stems from Parks’ transfer to Los Angeles, a choice that ended up mirroring the way in which she approached the music. “I wished to really feel prefer it was coming from a totally new place,” she lately mentioned. “I wished to really feel prefer it pushed the bounds of what I had carried out 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 straightforward to slide into when it masks itself as consolation. However Parks does step out of her consolation zone on My Tender Machine, initially by bringing herself additional into the fold. “I really feel a lot guilt that I couldn’t guard extra individuals 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 rapidly accumulate between lots 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 are 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 may be/ Re-reading our texts from the strawberry days”). However pleasure doesn’t simply are available in bits and items or exist solely previously; there’s a complete sea of it that Parks swims by way of 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 an alternative of drowning in it, whereas ‘Impurities’ basks within the heat glow of neighborhood. A visitor look from Phoebe Bridgers isn’t a rarity today, but it surely 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 Tender Machine, Parks attracts from a extra disparate palette that does wonders for her sound, even when she might lean into it slightly extra. The apparent affect of Elliott Smith and Frank Ocean now mesh with extra surprising and fewer trendy reference factors just like the Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones that gasoline spotlight ‘Devotion’, whose fiery manufacturing is worthy of a line like “Flood me together with your nervous love.” This dynamism extends to ‘Blades’, a deceptively upbeat tune that paints a extra damaging image of devotion, as if to bop it away. The refrain of ‘Pet’ calls again to Collapsed in Sunbeams‘ ‘Damage’, with “Simply comprehend it gained’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 as if a regression, but it surely’s a testomony to an artist studying to be current with – reasonably than making an attempt to precisely characterize – every little 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 course. It’s a decent balancing act and a little bit of a threat, but it surely’s the results of Parks merely trusting her intestine. In spite of everything, you don’t get to regulate how the reality washes over you; you’ll be able to solely select how one can challenge it.



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