More about: Moses Sumney
The art-pop singer-songwriter Moses Sumney produces the sophomore LP, Græ - his finest work yet recounting the trials and tribulations of a tumultuous love life and obscured sense of identity.
Forever tied to romanticism, the illustrious sonic qualities of Moses Sumney’s repertoire has served him extraordinarily well until this point: lauded critical success from his 2017 debut, Aromanticism, as well as the follow-up EP of 2018 - consistently tight-roping across avenues of art-pop, neo-soul, jazz, and indie rock. Witnessing mere vignettes into Sumney’s personal life through social media, this sophomore double LP, Græ, encases a full-frontal dive into his romantic pastures encased in an odyssean 66 minutes. Unlike his previous works and collaborations with James Blake, Flume, and Bon Iver, here we see Sumney's true meaning of "greyness" - all the while masterfully excavating his “in between extreme” moments.
Softly-spoken words of an omnipotent female voice caresses us into Sumney’s state of isolation in the first track 'Insula', amongst a landscape of ethereal electronics. Yet this directorial voice confides in us throughout this LP: imploring to “rewrite...definitions” in ‘Boxes’, and claiming the "right to be multiple” in ‘Also Also Also And And And’. Much like the guiding poetry of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Sumney similarly harnesses the greyness of his introspective multiplicity through the dissolution of inherent masculinity at the expense of this reliant female voice.
At the core of this dissolution, comes one of the standout tracks of the first half, ‘Virile’ - a sprawling indie-rock/art-pop track seething with violent, hyper-masculine ideologies embedded to its core. After calmly accepting to “rewrite those definitions”, these masculine tropes yet re-emerge through ‘Jill/Jack’’s conflicting assertion, “he had that masculine thing down”, eventually tailspinning Sumney to ‘Colouour’’s displacement into the cosmic ether of supernal romanticism once again.
Like many of the recent love-infested LPs, namely Tyler, The Creator’s Igor, Sumney finds himself debilitated by love’s inspiring, yet volatile, grip. Traversing through his mystical infatuation on the soulful ‘Cut Me’, Andrew Bird-type euphoria of ‘In Bloom’, ethereal, Kid A-esque ‘Gagarin’, and glistening-R&B ‘Colouour’, these cases are abruptly offset by more truculent scenes in the abrasive ‘Virile’, and optimistic ‘Lucky Me’. Yet the real ‘comedown’ moment of Sumney’s break-up is marked at act one’s conclusion, ‘Polly’ - a heart-rending ode to a calamitous polyamorous relationship. Besieged by a haunting lonesomeness encased in one of 2020’s best singles, ‘Me in 20 Years’, the darkened piece of 80s synthwave underlines Sumney’s fear of falling into the “pit” or “cavity” imprinted by his former lover - culminating on a prolonged suicidal note within ‘Keep Me Alive’.
Through these trials and tribulations, however, Sumney’s internal multiplicity continues us into the second act of a comparatively more optimistic view on romanticism - harnessing ‘Lucky Me’ and ‘Bless Me’’s poignant turn of self-reclamation. Interspliced with female-led speeches, Sumney is uplifted against Frank Ocean-esque sparse instrumentation: spoken word, plucked strings, and cramped vocals permeating until the latter’s cacophonous conclusion. “Bless me before you go, you’re going nowhere with me” ultimately acts as a soulful mark of independence to the once-crestfallen Sumney in the penultimate track of Græ.
Bearing the role of omnipotence, the anonymous female voice yet again sees out the closure to Sumney's journey, imploring in him to “now go…” - to where, however, remains unclear. Perhaps alluding to the pastoral duties of his own mother, Sumney nevertheless emphasises the necessity for internal multiplicity and a willingness to embrace the 'other' voice amongst the heightened ‘greyness’ of modern day.
This intense experience of Sumney’s romanticism signs itself as his most mature, convincing, and dynamic piece of work to date. Compared to his lauded debut LP, here Sumney has produced a grittier, more complex listening experience underlined by improved production, well-rounded hooks, consuming vocal deliveries, and exploratory rhythmics. While one can draw comparisons of Sumney’s romantic arch through Tyler, The Creator’s Igor or the emotional rawness of Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Græ thrives on pulling together the 80s-inspired sonic fibres ingrained in our current ‘indiesphere’. Exploiting the nature of multiplicity and the void of such “in betweens”, Sumney has profoundly executed a near-perfect LP with admirable maturity - marking an uncanny reflection on our current void of isolation thus far.
Part two of Græ is released on 15 May 2020 via Jagjaguwar.
More about: Moses Sumney