To speak of an artist’s “emergence” is especially apt in the case of the singer, songwriter, and musician Moses Sumney, who seemed to reveal his musical legend gradually, one ephemeral facet at a time.
After growing up in Ghana and Southern California and studying poetry in college, Sumney swiftly earned the attention of the LA music industry, but that interest came with expectations that he would standardize his omnidirectional electronic soul music. Instead, he turned away from compromised fame and sketched the merest outline of his sublime sound on the Mid-City EP—recorded on a four-track given to him by Dave Sitek—and then moved to the quiet, remote mountains of North Carolina, less than two hours by car east of Knoxville. There, after another translucent turn on the Lamentations EP, Sumney began to unroll the fullness of his musical vision on the mercurial Aromanticism, released by Jagjaguar in 2017, which rose high on the nation’s most prestigious year-end lists.
Next, he fulfilled that vision on the towering double-album grae, where his “Prince-like falsetto and his polymathic musical acuity” brought a New York Times Magazine spotlight as well as a second-consecutive Best New Music from Pitchfork. In part a reflection on Sumney’s rejection of the mainstream music industry, the album ratified the soundness of his decision to go his own way—though it’s been one filled with collaborations with the likes of Bon Iver, Solange, James Blake, Bryce Dessner, and other fellow seekers on the outer rim of pop music.