September 29th, 2017 | Album reviews


It sounds like it’s draped in the pastel robes of romance, but Moses Sumney’s debut full-length Aromanticism uses its lyrics to make a case against itself: in an angelic falsetto over a lovely satin cushion of strings, he sings, “Don’t bother calling / I’ll call you.” His tender admission that both he and his wings are made of plastic—imagery that calls to mind the decontextualized body parts that fill our Instagram feeds—makes its melismatic way between buttery guitar that sounds as ready for Etta James as it is for him. As you listen to Sumney’s 34 minute soliloquy on the existential implications of societally sanctioned love propaganda, you can’t help but marvel at the artful gap between the loneliness in his lyrics and the rich, emotive arrangements. (Aromanticism‘s flutes flutter like butterflies in a nervous belly.) It’s a precious feeling that Sumney is able to conjure, with a blunt intimacy like making out in a car. He offers slivers of an origin story in exactingly enunciated interludes about his mother’s stoicism and society’s indoctrination of its youth, but he never breaks with the tragic Shakespearian character who weaves a complicated feeling of malaise into a rococo tapestry. The album concludes with “Self Help Tape,” a largely wordless prayer that post-ecstatically gives way to a shallow pool of swirling, pitch-shifted ghost voices whispering, “Imagine being free.” While it feels lazy to flat out compare his work on tracks like “Doomed” and “Lonely World” to the A-and B-sides of Jeff Buckley’s Sketches For My Sweetheart, The Drunk, it’s worth noting that Buckley’s fans may experience a great catharsis through the similarities—it’s a bit like experiencing the finalized version of what was considered an eternally unfinished sketch. Sumney’s Aromanticism is a deep and powerful album, with perhaps the precise kind of tenderness to balance 2017’s post-apocalyptic feel.

—Christina Gubala