Love is an entrapment. Often it can be heaven. Often it can be hell. But how does one live with the absence of love? The word “aromanticism” is not contained by any form of the English dictionary, yet it is not meaningless. One reading of the word may lead someone to think of asexuality. Like asexuality is without sex, aromanticism is without love, affection, and adoration. Maybe people believe it is not humanly possible, or healthy to live without these things, as if every person was placed on this earth to love another. As much as our reality has an aptitude for longing for relationships, it is difficult to imagine a world without affectionate love. Through a collection of somewhat anti-love songs, Los Angeles based singer Moses Sumney created an audible adventure in a life with no love. He encapsulated a loveless life with his debut album, Aromanticism.
The public, especially before this album, may not have known Moses Sumney as a name by itself. Sumney has an affiliation with many popular talents today such as James Blake, Solange, and Sufjan Stevens, whether the connection is through music or touring. To be fair, before the album, he only had two projects to his name.He set his place in the music scene in 2014 with Mid-City Island, a delightful record with lively vocals and instrumentation. His next project, Lamentations, contains only remnants of the full artistic realization Sumney possessed and displayed on Aromanticism.
His natural singing voice is pure sonic beauty, but he utilizes multiple vocal layers to give his records more of an unworldly feel. The album alternates from loud to quiet repeatedly through 35 minutes. Often Sumney may find himself belting his voice to the highest pitch, then transform his voice into nothing more than a calming mutter. The production behaves the same way; shifting from controlled to chaotic. With all this said, we can’t place Moses Sumney in an R&B and pop genre. He is alternative music at it’s finest. If one must place a label on this album, it could be aptly described as “folk-soul.” The music of Aromanticism is different, yet still kind to the ears.
“You need a solid, but I’m made of liquid” — Moses Sumney in “Don’t Bother Calling”
Each song on this album is allowed its own moment. Sumney does an outstanding job camouflaging tracks as actual love songs. Every track has its own sense of grace and solitude with the ability to change the mood of any room. Most of the songs are laced with gorgeous acoustic guitar and crystal clear piano. “Plastic” is a moment of weakness. He pictures himself as too delicate and almost unable to be loved. That the weak have the inane inability to love in a way that is fruitful. He sings “My wings are made of plastic,” which may mean that he is too weak to fly with a lover.
Several songs on this record will make you think. One line from a song may lead to endless conclusions of its meaning. Take “Make Out in My Car” for example. The is only one lyric he repeats: “I don’t want to go to bed with you, I just want to make out in my car.” Moses Sumney seems to be refusing any kind of deep sensuality. He rather lock lips without feeling than engaging in the pleasure of sexual activity.
This may reflect many situations where a person doesn’t want to develop an attachment with another. It may be an abundance of fear or a lack courage that may prevent a person from wanting the fulfilling yet strange sense of responsibility that pairs with affection. This could tell us something about how we know how precious love is it and how much it costs. People like Sumney may retrain themselves from love until that are strong enough to embellish it.
The gorgeousness of this album shifts to darkness on tracks like “Lonely World.” It’s by far the most chaotic song on the Aromaticism. Sumney imagines the world of a lonely mind. It can be incredibly dangerous to leave a mind by its lonesome. The instrumentation imitates this mental chaos by containing disorderly drums and Sumney’s trademark wail. His words are even more colorful. “After all the laughter, emptiness prevails/Born into this world with no consent or choice,” he sings. This may beg the question, could loneliness be synonymous will lovelessness? Can one exist without the other? Love is what keeps people together. When one is loved but alone, they may not feel lonely knowing that there is someone out there who loves them genuinely.
The absence of romantic love is a strange subject. In reality, being in monogamous relationships is somewhat of a default. Having a hand to hold and a face to kiss has been the societal norm since Earth’s inception. It’s one of the norms that society refuses to question. It may be crazy to question the essence of love because it’s a feeling that’s shrouded in positivity and perceived as humanity’s most coveted desire. Some instances love is automatic, such as parental love.Some instances of love is a goal, like platonic and romantic love.
The more effort a relationship requires, the more it is possible it is for it to be doomed. Humanity constantly ignores the toxicity and aimlessness of relations for the sake of love. Sumney speaks on this on “Doomed,” an eerie track that encapsulates hopelessness. In this climate, happy, long-lasting relationships have become a rarity. It’s so easy to fall out of love. But this endless cycle of pain and joy is very instilled in humanity. Love will always exist. The absence of love may never be looked at as a sense of freedom, rather than a chance to reflect on other emotions.
In an interview with FADER, he says “I think that romance is very obviously a political tool, and a capitalist device.” He acknowledges that romance no longer a sacred item. It can be used for greed and personal gain. There’s a certain type of selfishness that comes with love. Society has fixated love as a tool of consumerism, making conventional love less magical as time goes by. Rejecting something that gives man so much pleasure may be perceived as insane in an idealistic standpoint, but Sumney managed to exploit the faults of love itself. Love is malleable and like the land of the Earth, it can be ruined.
Overall, Aromanticism is a pleasantly phenomenal album that will have you thinking what love means to you. Sumney’s consistently beautiful vocal performance will welcome you a place you have never been.