Moses Sumney is obsessed with loneliness. But he’s not like all the other suckers out there looking for love. In fact, he finds himself hovering somewhere in a foreign world of lovelessness, a landscape that he documents on his latest release, “Aromanticism.” As he weaves his vocal lines in and out of our heads, we get a peek into a world where romantic attraction is nonexistent, and societal notions of love and soulmates open up into black holes of doubt and loneliness.
“Am I vital if my heart is idle? Am I doomed?” Sumney asks on “Doomed,” the haunting single from “Aromanticism.” Built off of the artist’s delicate falsetto and unique atmospheric swirl of harmony, it’s a showcase of his idiosyncratic musical style and a entry point into the album’s themes of disconnection and isolation. Purposefully shedding layers of genre identification, Sumney plays at will with elements of folk, soul, and R&B, both reinforcing and subverting the stereotypes and sounds of them. To put it simply, Sumney’s music feels as lonely as the themes weaving in and out of his lyrics.
Songs like “Don’t Bother Calling” feel like bedroom-folk done by a soul-auteur trapped for months in a sanitarium in an out-of-the-way place in the Swiss Alps. It’s The Magic Mountain updated for modern times. What is unique is that Sumney’s music has both experimental ambition and adult-oriented class, a rare combination that draws its veil over itself just as we begin to understand it. Just when I think I understand his sound, Sumney turns a corner and surprises me with something new. It’s a risky style with sometimes mixed results, but Sumney pulls it off off marvelously.
Songs exist in their own world on “Aromanticism.” “Plastic” draws us in like a lounge song for the discontent youth of the world in a time when job prospects are bleak and societal pressure threatens to crush us at every juncture. It’s soul for the isolated modern world we live in, though it still manages to ooze with sexiness:
If our wings are “plastic,” it makes me wonder what constitutes the rest of Sumney’s world. Closing line “my wings are made up / and so am I” begs us to question the reality of anything. What connection do we have to each other when our lives are so virtual and synthetic?
Throughout “Aromanticism,” Sumney brings us back to his most amazing asset – his voice. On “Make Out In My Car” his spectral falsetto ascends in glorious layers, reaching a sort of climactic yearning in its repeating lines:
“I’m not tryna go to bed with you
I just wanna make out in my car”
On “Stoicism” and “The Cocoon-Eyed Baby,” Sumney showcases his talent for soundscape behind free-form poetry. It makes the album feel like a mash-up of tender, soul-wrenching music and the social conversation of slam poetry. “Aromanticism” is Sumney’s best release to date, and will most likely become a classic in years to come.