Two years ago, around this time of the year, when Washington’s weather was a cruel contrast between beautiful early-winter sunlight in the skies and numbingly cold temperatures on the ground, I was in my room, going about my usual sleepless work routine. The sun had long disappeared on me, and all I could see were the black-and-blue silhouettes of my hands against the glare of my laptop screen. Some hours into the night, I checked my messages and found that a friend had sent me a link to Moses Sumney’s “Don’t Bother Calling,” telling me that I absolutely had to hear it. With the last of the energy I had left, I decided to listen.
For the next three minutes of my life, I experienced a feeling I’ll forever cherish.
The lead track from Sumney’s acclaimed 2015 debut album “Aromanticism,” “Don’t Bother Calling” is a disarmingly simple song. The instrumental is built around nothing but a single guitar loop and some occasional strings. The rest is all Sumney’s ghostly falsetto, carrying the listener through a pained, lonely meditation on the nature of reality.
Sumney’s lyrics at first glance sound arcane and metaphysical. He opens his verses with lines like “I’m not a body, a body is but a shell / I disembody but suffering is sovereign,” which comes off like a vaguely Buddhist remark on the permanence of suffering through an existence that transcends the self. On paper, these feel like mere abstractions that could only make sense if lived.
However, through Sumney’s controlled, quietly passionate vocals and the song’s hypnotic production, “Don’t Bother Calling” articulates Sumney’s existential loneliness, such that even if it isn’t immediately understood, it is nevertheless felt, profoundly and viscerally.
The night I first listened to the track, I felt so instantly lost in its sound and story that I almost stopped recognizing my surroundings. I was in the same house I’d lived in for nine years, but sitting alone in my room, hours past midnight, with no light in through the window to convey any sense of familiarity, the present moment suddenly felt isolated and foreign. More than anything, it was peaceful.
I’ve since listened to “Don’t Bother Calling” countless times and it remains one of the most moving and therapeutic songs I know. The listening experience works best as I first heard it, against the dark, cold currents of wintertime. As finals approach, we can all expect to spend a few late, lonesome nights lost in our own stress. Perhaps this song can help you feel lost in something more beautiful, if only for a moment.
Reach reporter Tejus Krishnan at email@example.com. Twitter: tejusk100
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