Sumney’s album feels comforting


Photo provided by Pitchfork

If the word ‘comfort’ came in the form of music, it would sound something like Moses Sumney’s debut album “Aromanticism.” With soft, surreal crooning and minimalistic instrumentation, this album is the musical embodiment of a warm blanket on a cold day.

But this isn’t your typical “hearts and flowers” kind of record. Sumney made this album to be the antithesis of your average pop or R&B love song – yet he still manages to make it sound sweet.

Though comfort comes to mind when you hear the unreal vocal layering on songs like “Lonely World” and the 35-second “Man On the Moon (Reprise)”, there are many themes in the songs on this album that go far beyond that. With no sexual innuendos or double entendres, this album’s uniqueness lies in its ability to make the listener feel relaxed while also causing a sort of inadvertent self-reflection.

According to the 26-year-old singer, the album is “a record about lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape,” which one can only take to mean it embraces darkness, loneliness and existentialism. It’s an album for those who are comfortable enough to confront the dark spaces in the deepest pockets of their consciousness.

The song “Plastic” is an example of the soul-searching lyrics Sumney disperses throughout his songs. This lilting, guitar-driven song, actually released on his 2014 EP “Mid-City Island”, showcases his falsetto voice as well as his songwriting abilities. The last line “my wings are made of plastic, and so am I” is haunting, but in the best way possible.

Sumney’s smooth vocals pair well with the ethereal instrumentation. His vocal talent is especially apparent on the song “Self-Help Tape” which essentially is just him harmonizing for a few minutes. It’s a peaceful track that sounds like cool water feels.

But don’t call it an R&B record. Recently Sumney has questioned the categorical boundaries placed around his music. Earlier this year, he took to twitter to express his discomfort with the label of R&B being slapped on his music.

“Aesthetically, what classifies this as modern R&B music? What about its make-up fits it into that category?” he asked in one tweet. In another, he said, “I love R&B music, but this description bothers me most because I get it the most and it’s the only race-based classification of my music.”

The idea of labeling his music seems to be an impossible feat, because it doesn’t quite fit into one of the classic genres. The best way to describe it is “introspective music for rainy days that’ll probably make you cry if you think too hard about the lyrics”, but that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

The first time I listened to this album in its entirety, I snuck away from class one night to listen to it in an empty elevator. Because so much of the album is focused on darkness and loneliness, it made perfect sense to listen to it in a dimly lit, confined space in complete solitude where I felt like I might be the only person to still exist. Logically, I knew there was still a thriving world outside the elevator doors, but with Sumney’s album playing in the background of my thoughts, I understood that “Aromanticism” is an album best enjoyed alone. And not to alienate those lucky lovers out there, but the album’s message is especially poignant if you are without a significant other.