I insist upon my right to be multiple
Even more so, I insist upon
The recognition of my multiplicity
Moses Sumney (born May 19, 1992) is a Ghanaian-American musician and singer-songwriter known for his supernal, almost celestial vocals and an eclectic avant-garde sound containing elements of everything from jazz to folk music.
In 2013, Sumney attempted to break into the Los Angeles music scene. Playing anywhere he could get his head in, it wouldn't take long before he decided to record his debut EP Mid-City Island (most notably recorded on a four track recorder given to him by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio fame), whose reputation among indie circles would lead to him playing opening shows for beloved indie acts such as Sufjan Stevens.
As his reputation grew, Sumney began to notch increasingly high-profile gigs opening for artists like David Byrne, James Blake, and Solange. With all this buzz and acclaim surrounding him and his work in was sensible that by September 2017, he delivered his debut album, Aromanticism, a record hyperfixated on lovelessness and solitude. Its lead single "Doomed" would find its way on different film and television soundtracks, such as The Path and Queen & Slim. It would be in between this time that Sumney would release his Black in Deep Red EP, and continue work on his second studio album, græ. Released in two separate parts in February and May of 2020, it was a sprawling, sonically vibrant record which exemplified the multiplicity and profusion Sumney had been attempting at for most of his career.
- Mid-City Island (EP) (2014)
- Lamentations (EP) (2016)
- Aromanticism (2017)
- Make Out in My Car: Chameleon Suite (EP) (2018)
- Black in Deep Red (EP) (2018)
- græ (2020)
My tropes are made of plastic...
- all lowercase letters: The titles of "insula", "boxes", "jill/jack", "also also also and and and", and "before you go". The rest of his song titles follow standard grammar conventions, with the exception of "and so I come to isolation", which is just one letter off from fulfilling this trope.
- All Take and No Give: "Polly" describes the frustration that Moses, who is inclined towards monogamy, experiences in a relationship with a polyamorous person (hence their pseudonym being "Polly") who he feels isn't as invested in their relationship as he is.
- Anti-Police Song: All of the Black in Deep Red EP, which was inspired by an anti-police brutality protest that Moses had attended four years prior to its release, but especially "Rank & File", which criticizes cops as mindless, violent drones who subjugate the populace out of a need to feel powerful.Their governing masterTo their hip is plasteredSay "protect and serve" usBut murder's not service
- Consistent Clothing Style: When he does wear clothes, Moses is rarely seen in anything other than baggy black clothing that obscures his frame. Lampshaded in "Colouour", where he sings from the perspective of someone who thinks Dark Is Evil and wants him to try out another color.Why don't you wear some color?It'd bring out your eyesYou say you'd never botherCause you'd be telling lies
- Cover Version: Of "Come To Me" by Björk
- Distinct Double Album: græ was released in two parts, with three months' separation between the two releases. They also vary sonically, with the first part being more upbeat and genre-fluid and the second part being more somber and consistent genre-wise.
- Epic Rocking: The album version of "Quarrel" clocks in at nearly seven minutes long thanks to its extensive instrumental outro, though the "Edit" version described in Radio Friendliness is about two-and-a-half minutes shorter.
- Genre Mashup: His sound can be roughly described as containing elements of Classical Music, Neo Soul, Alternative R&B, Jazz and art pop. Besides that expect words like "experimental", "avant-garde" or "progressive" to be used to describe his work.
- Icarus Allusion: "Plastic", which contains a narrative of false confidence similar to the tale of Icarus, but trades Icarus' wax wings for plastic ones.
- Leave the Camera Running: The video for "Polly" is one uninterrupted shot of Moses sitting nearly stock-still and staring at the camera as he listens to the song, tears streaming down his face.
- Lyrical Dissonance: His records can become increasingly grand and vibrant in their sound and composition, and yet common themes in his lyrics are loneliness and lovelessness.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover art for Aromanticism is simply Moses with his back turned towards the viewer with his head seemingly missing.
- Mr. Fanservice: He's got a spectacularly toned physique, and when he's not clothed in heavy, shapeless black garb, he has no qualms about showing it off. Epitomized in the video for "Virile", which consists largely of a shirtless and oiled-up Moses flexing and gyrating about.
- Radio Friendliness: Moses has released two versions of "Quarrel", one that contains a lengthy instrumental outro that brings it to nearly seven minutes, and an "Edit" version without said outro that clocks in at a mere 4:18.
- Remix Album: "Make Out In My Car" off of Aromanticism got a remix EP featuring contributions from James Blake, Sufjan Stevens, and Alex Isley, as well as a reworked extended version from Moses himself.
- Sampling: "jill/jack" prominently features a verse sampled from Jill Scott's "Cross My Mind", which starts out as a direct sample in the first verse, but in ensuing verses Moses chimes in with gender-swapped versions of the lyrics.
- Sexy Packaging: græ features a naked figure on a rock.
- Singing Simlish:
- "Mumblin'" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: nearly five minutes of Moses mumble-humming the same rhythm over and over, with varying levels of vocal distortion and occasional moments of more coherent vocalization layered over it.
- The vocals of "Self-Help Tape", similarly, consist entirely of Moses babbling melodically.
- Song of Prayer: "Incantation" is a direct interpolation of two traditional Jewish prayers, sung entirely in Hebrew.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Stoicism" and "The Cocoon-Eyed Baby" off of Aromanticism prominently feature spoken-word delivery from Moses that follows an irregular meter conflicting with the rhythm of the instrumental, implying the vocals and instrumental were not built around one another.
- Textless Album Cover: Aromanticism and græ.
- Three Minutes of Writhing: The music video for "Virile", though it does technically have an overarching Man vs. Nature narrative, spends a good amount of time focused on Moses' oiled-up body as he dances around a warehouse full of meat.