If there’s a successor to Brian Wilson’s “wasn’t made for these times” brand, it’s probably Moses Sumney, the enigmatic LA singer. The ambitious twenty-song double album græ, released in two parts, the first in February, the remainder just this month, feels like art of another world, especially given the state of our current one. Sumney doesn’t write pop songs in the conventional sense. The word ‘love’ doesn’t really come up, there’s not a single hook to pull you in. Everything is fluid-structure, relationships, friendships, gender. Appreciating Sumney takes a degree of initial patience. His songs aren’t emotional, they are emotions; nothing here is casually felt or observed. Sumney’s soulful falsetto resembles Prince, who was so adept at using his voice to build frenzy. But with Sumney, the frenzy never comes. Instead the backings are lush and varied, as are the collaborators – Oneohtrix, Thundercat, Shabaka Hutchings, James Blake, even writer Michael Chabon. All help Sumney get lost in his music again and again. On the video of the sparse “Polly,” a faded love tale (“You love dancin’ with me/ Or you just love dancin’”), instead of lip-synching, as the lyrics implore “See Me,” Sumney stares into the camera and weeps. If this sounds overly serious, yeah, it can be. But there is humor, too. Repeated listens let the subtleties unspool. It’s almost impossible to believe such heart on your sleeve emotions can exist in today’s world. Sumney conjures up another time and space, one that may have only previously existed in his mind. If you’re looking for a way to escape, look no further.
Review by Jeff McCord