Pride Month Album Review: Arlo Parks “My Soft Machine”

Graphics by Arlo Winokur
Graphics by Arlo Winokur

By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator and Claire Dunham, Music Coordinator

Artist: Arlo Parks

Album: My Soft Machine

Favorite Songs: “Devotion,” “Pegasus (ft. Phoebe Bridgers),” and “Ghost”

For Fans Of: Clairo, Nilüfer Yanya, and Japanese Breakfast

It’s Pride Month! To celebrate, our music staff is reviewing new albums from LGBTQ+ musicians. This week we are taking a deep dive into “My Soft Machine,” the sophomore album from alternative singer-songwriter Arlo Parks


In 2021, Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho released her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams under the alias Arlo Parks. Following this release, the then-20-year-old musician received an abundance of praise for the record’s smooth, polished sound and poetic lyricism. For Parks, who wrote her first song at age seven and spent her childhood obsessing over the verses of Sylvia Plath, Pat Parker, and Audre Lorde, this praise was a long time coming (and well-deserved). 

Not only was the album a sonic masterpiece but it was also recognized as an impactful exploration of queer identity. With uniquely orchestrated narrative-based songs like “Eugene” and “Green Eyes,” the British musician encapsulates the many complicated emotions that accompany young queer love and self-discovery. Now, more than two years later, Parks revisits these themes and more on her highly anticipated and “deeply personal” sophomore album My Soft Machine.



My Soft Machine opens with “Bruiseless,” a song that transports listeners into Arlo’s universe with the click of a cassette tape. Life through Arlo’s lens is a place where lush soundscapes meet poetic lyricism. The immersive track is the perfect introduction to the musician’s skillfully juxtaposed lyrics; she contrasts descriptions of cyclical patterns of abuse with carefree lyrics like, “The person I love is feeding me cheese, and I’m happy.”

This is the power of Parks’ poetic voice: her unwavering honesty and heightened emotional intelligence. Arlo writes songs as if they are diary entries—exploring a wide range of emotions in an effortlessly natural way.



As the album progresses, its lyrical themes become more apparent. Specifically, I was struck by Parks’ expressions of queer joy. Although she wrote about queer relationships for her debut release, Collapsed in Sunbeams, many of those songs focus on the overwhelming feelings of isolation and doubt. 

My Soft Machine is a testament to Parks’ personal and musical growth. The album doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat the musician’s experiences as a bisexual person. Instead, these songs prove that queer joy exists despite the personal struggles LGBTQ+ people face. 

Track two, “Impurities” is a complex story that explores this dichotomy between personal hardships and queer joy. Although both Arlo and her partner have their own “impurities,” or self-destructive tendencies, it is obvious that they support and love each other all the same. Through this song, Parks demonstrates that queer joy and hope go hand in hand.



Track three, “Devotion” radiates with a similar thematic message of queer joy. With lyrics like, “Girl, I wanna protect you, I do, oh. Your touch embroiders me,” Parks celebrates the mutual love she shares with her partner. The song is also sprinkled with sentiments of joy and unguarded sincerity. Although the lyrical content of the track is undoubtedly poignant, its musical qualities are just as noteworthy. 

While the song’s opening features Arlo’s standard R&B-inspired indie sound, it quickly transforms into a loud, fiery, and utterly rambunctious, rock melody. The sound is infectious and ’90s-esque, proving that Parks isn’t bound to one genre. Its grounded backing of bass, guitar, and drums contrasts with lyrical confessions of love—creating a mesmerizing juxtaposition of sound and narrative. 



Indie superstar Phoebe Bridgers joins Parks on track seven, “Pegasus.” Sonically, Bridgers and Parks are a match made in heaven—both musicians are known for their light, airy vocals and delicate indie melodies. The song features a transcendent blend of the two musicians’ voices, a sound so sweet that the track becomes almost lullaby-like. 

Additionally, its opening lyric, “Falling asleep, holding your puppy in your Persian blue sheets. Never felt lucky yet, but I do right now,” introduces another one of the album’s main thematic messages: appreciate the present. Throughout the song, Parks describes various mundane, and even uncomfortable, moments with such tenderness and care. With the help of her partner, Arlo no longer dreads things like “gettin’ sick in the streets.” Instead, she feels lucky that she gets to experience these events with her partner by her side. 



As the album comes to a close, Arlo faces her unspoken fears head-on: “I’m Sorry” describes the musician’s failed attempts to work through her deep-rooted trust issues, and “Room (red wings)” narrates a tragic story of unrequited love. Both of these songs are introspective and somber. Their lyrics effectively draw listeners in and force them to consider their own past traumas. 

However, Parks does not end the record on this melancholy note. “Ghost,” the final song on My Soft Machine, represents the musician’s hope for a better future. Lyrics like, “Wanna let you in, wanna let you help me. Wanna let you in, wanna have transparency,” demonstrate Parks’ desire to be vulnerable and open to love. As a listener, you can’t help but root for Arlo as she works to find joy in the present and emotional balance in her life.

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