Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney releases “Aromanticism”

Harry Todd
Contributing Writer

“Aromanticism,” the debut full-length album from crooner Moses Sumney, makes one thing clear: this is an album about voice. The opening track, “Man on the Moon (Reprise),” is a song comprised entirely of Sumney’s layered vocals. Sumney makes it clear that this is not an a capella song but rather, “Man on the Moon (Reprise)” – like the rest of “Aromanticism” – feels like Sumney is discovering how to use voice as a new instrument. In conjunction with impressive instrumentation and production, “Aromanticism” finds Sumney guiding his listeners through new, dreamy and unique sonic landscapes.

Sumney’s exploration of the human voice is supported by consistently impressive, jazzy instrumentation. Individual instruments vary song to song with strings, horns and synths coming and going at leisure. The backing band is an excellent collection of some of the most exciting young musicians, though they never outshine Sumney. The most impressive contributions are from the Brainfeeder label. Thundercat, the goofball bassist who released this year’s excellent “Drunk,” brings his unique sound to “Lonely World,” while Taylor McFerrin adds his subdued, ephemeral production to delightful ends. All of this is to say nothing of the only stable instrument on this album: the soft, acoustic guitar that so sweetly acts as backing vocals on nearly every song here.

Lyrically, the album treads well-worn ground. Still, Sumney’s musings on loneliness and isolation are often thought-provoking. When read, certain lyrics might make a listener cringe; yet hearing Sumney croon, “I’m not tryna go to bed with you / I just wanna make out in my car” for an entire song still somehow resonates. In effect, the claim that Sumney’s lyrics matter less than how he delivers them becomes much more apparent. “Doomed,” the album’s most lyrically impressive song, has Sumney crooning, “Am I vital / If my heart is idle? Am I doomed?” – heartbreaking stuff. Still, Sumney finds some sort of optimism throughout the album; the production that backs the lyrics is so strong and enticing that one can’t help but feel the warmth after a harsh chill on this album.

The relative dearth of new songs on the album was initially worrisome. Five of the eleven tracks were previously released, either as singles or on previous EPs. After several listens, though, no song feels inessential. Not even “Plastic,” a song initially released in 2014, feels unwarranted. The newer version is significantly stronger from a production perspective, fitting seamlessly into the sonic realm of “Aromanticism.” A similar worry might appear when looking at the album length. At 34 minutes, the album breezes by, especially since only three of the new songs last longer than a minute. But the brevity ends up being one of “Aromanticism’s” biggest strengths, acting like a summation of the album’s obsession with loneliness. As the last song wistfully fades out, we’re left yearning; we can only hope that Sumney will hold our hand and whisper in our ear as he guides us through more soundscapes soon.

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