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The Anti-Love Song: A Review of Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism

Aromanticism+was+released+on+Sepember+22nd.+
Aromanticism was released on Sepember 22nd.

Aromanticism was released on Sepember 22nd.

Courtesy of Nina Corcoran

Courtesy of Nina Corcoran

Aromanticism was released on Sepember 22nd.

Jaret Berman, Contributing Writer

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The love song—from pieces by composers dedicated to their beloveds, to jazz standards recontextualized by musicians around the world, to whatever finds its way to the top of the charts next week—is one of music’s oldest conventions. It can be cheerful, depressing, angry, or anything in between. Rarely, however, is the concept of a love song subverted with such grace and purpose as it is in Moses Sumney’s debut full-length album Aromanticism.

From the entirely a cappella arrangement of his 2013 debut single, “Man on the Moon,” to the sparse-yet-pointed instrumentation of “Doomed” and “Quarrel,” each and every second of Aromanticism is dripping with purpose. Sumney’s vocals are the most consistent element between each song, his haunting croon reverberating in layers over heartfelt and emotional lyrics. “If lovelessness is godlessness / Will you cast me to the wayside?” he sings in “Doomed,” the album’s lead single. “Well, I feel the peeling of half-painted ceilings / Reveal the covering of a blank sky.” While the lyrics on their own read like poetry, one minor fault of Sumney’s vocals is his constant usage of a falsetto tone and high register. At times, this sounded too fluid and overly mellow. In rare cases,  lyrics of songs were obscured, particularly in “Quarrel” and “Plastic.” However, as I listened to the album more, this became less and less of an issue. In this respect, Aromanticism grows on the viewer, as it does in many other regards. Listeners looking for up-tempo music will find nothing of interest here. However, those searching for an album that reflects heartbreak and the struggles of loving someone in the present day will  discover an alternative view on love, heartbreak, and the baggage that comes with it, from one who proclaims his heart to be “idle.”

It’s incredibly hard not to fall in love with Aromanticism.”

Aromanticism is a concept album about lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape,” Moses Sumney writes on his Tumblr blog. “It seeks to interrogate the idea that romance is normative and necessary.” He goes on to explain that, to him, the concept represents his own admission that he desires affection but cannot reciprocate it. Sumney professes to be inspired by works such as Plato’s Symposium and other pieces of philosophical work on love and loving. Although Sumney is well-read, he doesn’t sing in overly complicated language, while also managing to not dumb down his ideals. Some of his lyrics stick in the mind of the listener long after their respective songs have passed, demonstrating an attention to detail and songcraft that sells what could otherwise be considered an overly intellectual or “deep” topic.

It may seem daunting to listen to an album that flies in the face of so many popular lyrical topics and conventions. However, once “Man on the Moon (reprise)” kicks off the album, you’ll be hooked from the first few seconds all the way to the album’s closer, “Self Help Tape.” Seamless song transitions and consistency of vision make it clear that Moses Sumney is already an expert at his craft, a visionary who shows incredible skill, and, most importantly, promises that his future efforts will be handled with as much care as this one. It may be somewhat sacrilegious to say, but it’s incredibly hard not to fall in love with Aromanticism.

This piece also appears in our October print edition.

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The Anti-Love Song: A Review of Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism