My first contact with Moses Sumney was a Pitchfork feature essentially labelling Sumney as “your favorite artist’s favorite artist.” Just a year after his debut EP, he attracted the attention of Sufjan Stevens and Solange Knowles.
A year later, I saw him perform Prince’s “Kiss” with Sufjan Stevens. A month after, I watched him do a solo performance at Eaux Claires. The crowd exponentially grew as he live sampled his voice to create lush ghostly harmonies. Now, finally, three years after his first EP, two years after his Pitchfork feature, comes Moses Sumney’s debut album.
Unlike many artist arcs, Sumney did not rush out his debut to capitalize on the hype building around him. It did not have a tireless release cycle. Sumney didn’t look to aimlessly reinvent himself. Instead, Sumney shows his craft building on tracks that he released three years ago on his debut EP. Aromanticism is Sumney’s depiction of loneliness in an album that cares more about questions than answers.
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Unlike on previous projects, Sumney creates grandiose soundscapes around his intimate falsetto. The sparse lo-fi sounds of Mid-City Island are traded out for crisp and full compositions. This is most notably seen on “Plastic,” a popular track from Mid-City Island that Sumney revisits on Aromanticism.
The original highlights Sumney’s ability to harmonize with himself accompanied with a light guitar. On Aromanticism, Sumney holds notes for longer, cleans up the production and adds strings to boost his vocal harmonies. Sumney does not take a backseat to the production, rather the production creates a larger sense of loneliness. The loneliness of feeling lost in a world bigger than you.
No track illustrates this better than “Quarrel.” Instrumentation builds around Sumney throughout the track, until drums and strings burst in as Sumney pierces through with his falsetto. The track ends with a sci-fi futuristic sounding outro that is absent of Sumney as the world around him absorbs him. This strong sense of creating a world around himself is what makes Aromanticism special and shines as the driving force of the record.
Aromanticism works to transport the listener to feel what Sumney does. The second half of the record creates a loveless feeling of introspection that comes with the immense loneliness heard throughout. “Doomed” highlights this as the lush production of “Plastic” and “Quarrel” are stripped away and Sumney is left alone to wonder how he got there.
Here, Sumney asks the most important question of the album at its emotional climax. “Am I vital if my heart is idle? Am I doomed?” Sumney’s loneliness and inability to love leave him wondering if he even has a purpose. Aromanticism is Sumney finding a way to express this confusion of love and loneliness. In many ways, it feels like his break up letter to love.
Aromanticism is delicate. It’s intimate. It’s atmospheric and it’s incredibly personal. It’s not afraid to ask the biggest questions without even beginning to look for an answer. It’s not worried about finding solutions. Its focus is on feeling. Aromanticism doesn’t ask much of its listener. All it needs is half an hour and empathy, and in return it’ll give a uniquely rewarding and personal experience listening to a meticulously well-crafted debut.