REVIEW: Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine – A Beginner’s Mind

I like movies. Just a glance over my twitter feed would let you know that.  I love Sufjan. Again, not a secret. So, when I got to know that there’s going to be an album combining the two, it seemed as if the music gods had made it just for me. I watch movies, and maybe I log them on letterboxd and write a review. Sufjan and Angelo watch movies, and they make a whole album on them.

A Beginner’s Mind is collaborative album from Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine. The 14 track album comprises of songs heavily inspired by movies, everything from critically acclaimed hits like The Silence of the Lambs, The Thing, and Wings of Desire, to the not so acclaimed Bring It On Again.

It’s always been difficult to pigeonhole Sufjan’s music. Even two of his recent releases, last years The Ascension to this years instrumental release Convocations, bear little similarities to one another. While on the other hand, Angelo is really coming to his own musically. The two, to no surprises, work well together. And this album is a great feat by two musicians who are at ease with their musical prowess and are having fun.

The first track, ‘Reach Out’ is a great, lush opener. The lyrics, which are from the perspective of the protagonist of the movie Wings of Desire,  emulate the tone of the movie perfectly. Really the song is a joy to listen to. And that brings me to my favourite tracks of the album.

The song ‘Cimmerian Shade’ inspired by The Silence of The Lambs is one of my favourites from the album. A harrowing and desperate look into the psyche of the antagonist of the movie Buffalo Bill. And also seeks to correct the transphobia and the wrongs that were present in Buffalo Bill’s on screen portrayal with heartfelt, albeit tongue in cheek call outs to the director of the movie Jonathan Demme (to whom the album is dedicated to). I didn’t expect a song about Buffalo Bill to bring me to tears, but these are strange times, and well, stranger things have happened.

My second favourite is the last track of the album ‘Lacrimae’. The shortest track of the album, inspired by the short film Lacrimae Rerum is a somber closure to the album. The strings are stripped down and shines in this last track. It’s a perfect end to the album .

Now where does this album fall short? Tracks 4 & 5 – ‘The Pillar of Souls’ & ‘You Give Death a Bad Name’ are the weak points of this album. And I’m sure that I am going to be in the very small minority that dislikes these songs, but I just couldn’t get into the them. They tried to go a different way production wise with these songs, and the result is two lackluster songs that just don’t fit in the album. On their own the tracks are fine, but in an album like this, they stick out glaringly. And not in a good way.

Barring those two tracks, it’s a very, very beautiful album. If you haven’t listened to him before, it’s a good introduction to Angelo. And long time Sufjan fans will enjoy this album because it is very familiar, and reminiscent of his entire repertoire. And that fact alone makes it very special.

Words by Rihaab Reyaz

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