🎵 A Beginner’s Mind (Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine)

Listened A Beginner’s Mind, by Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine from Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine have paired up for a collaborative project that does just that. A Beginner’s Mind is their debut album that contains 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films. The source material is highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in between. A cornerstone of zombie horror (Night of the Living Dead), a touchstone psychological thriller (Silence of the Lambs), a high-octane action flick (Point Break), and a Bette Davis classic (All About Eve) are inspiration for songs that seek to investigate the meaning of life, the meaning of death, and everything in between. The movies are only catalysts; the songs take liberty with their source material, allowing for bold tangents, often running wild with existential inquiry. John Carpenter’s The Thing inspires a song that explores the disease of social paranoia, while Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire is the building blocks of a song about human suffering and isolation. The music is folksy, sweet, sincere and harmonically effervescent—Simon & Garfunkel with New Age flourishes. There’s an S&M dirge inspired by Hellraiser III, a peppy campfire song based on the direct-to-video cheerleader rom-com Bring It On Again, and a fem-power lo-fi folk anthem based on Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. This album runs the gamut and has fun with it, even while its songwriters remain fully rooted in the melancholy folk idioms they are known for.

Marginalia

The album feels in some ways like classic Sufjan — the soft, lyric-driven indie-folk that fans would be familiar with from albums like Seven Swans and Carrie & Lowell. His lyrics are as acute as ever (who else could rhyme “lessons and metaphors” with “signals and semaphores” without missing a beat?). But the other thing Sufjan is known for is that aforementioned experimentation, and that’s all present here, too.

[o]n the moments that they sing in tandem on the album, they conjure elemental harmonies that neither could have achieved while double-tracking alone in the hushed corners of a studio. On the opener “Reach Out,” the pair sound like a bruised, cardigan-draped interpretation of the Everly Brothers as their voices meld with one another like two spirits holding hands and walking through a brick wall into some realm beyond our world.

Sufjan and Angelo form a choir of two, their eerily similar voices turning harmony into a kind of natural reverb.

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