I often think about our culture’s fixation with love – love that is romantic, above all. It definitely is the most represented of all emotions, sought after through the decades in all music, all writing, all film. We are bombarded by images of love: ads depicting couples inches away from kissing, movie franchises where the protagonists tirelessly chase after their love interests, Instagram stories, our parents, our friends.
In an age where the love of your life can be just a swipe away, there seems to be almost no escape from romanticism.
Moses Sumney’s long-awaited debut album offers such an escape from this culture of love in his beautifully crafted, sonic colony. He transforms listeners into refugees, running from this love-driven society into the great gray unknown. Make no mistake, he seems to be saying, these songs are not about love. At its best, “Aromanticism” is triumphant – 34 minutes of atmospheric anthems to a loveless generation. At its worst, it’s conflictive. When Sumney sings about his idle heart, he is contagiously intimate, to a point where the echoes of the album will surely bounce back and forth in countless occupied bedrooms. Moses Sumney is loveless, but not a puritan.
Aromanticism is defined as the lack of romantic attraction to a person/persons, and although Sumney himself does not necessarily identify as an aromantic individual, he does confess to not ever feeling love for another person in the traditional sense. “Aromanticism” is his way of dealing with his range of emotions, or the lack thereof. Through songs like “Doomed,” he contemplates the question of whether his lack of feeling is a tragedy – a tragedy where he is an exile from the city of love. In another song, “Lonely World,” he is at his most existential. “Born into this world with no consent or choice,” he sings.
“Stoicism,” an interlude in the album where Sumney recites a short poem, arguably portrays an autobiographical instance where his mother replies to his plea of love with a “thank you” – he seems to be asking, is this hereditary?
This is a genre-bending album, where Sumney carefully dismantles the myth of romantic love, but his critique is eventually molded into an omnipresent eroticism. As a black man living in a time of racial protest, he also dismantles what is expected of him as an artist – with this album of gentle cacophony, he refuses to be categorized into a single genre, let alone R&B. In this age of “benevolent” racism, where black people are discredited and disregarded with respect to their contributions to culture, Moses Sumney demands recognition.
The album is not prophetic nor is it analytic – it blatantly states the matter of fact that we are alone in a world where real love is seldom experienced. The power of the album, however, comes from recognizing this fact, and confronting it head-on. Sumney, through poetic lyricism, proposes another realm where romantic love is not the only emotion. He shows us a full spectrum of sentiments, and promises an experience where we may feel them all – maybe even love.
Notable Songs: “Don’t Bother Calling,” “Quarrel,” “Lonely World,” “Doomed”