A Beginner’s Mind | Album Review

Ashley Hays

Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine’s A Beginner’s Mind doesn’t give as much of a dispirited blow as some of Stevens’ past works, but the results are an astonishingly atmospheric yet rich listening experience.

Stevens has released nine solo studio albums and many collaborative albums with other musicians, but this is his first full album collab with native Californian singer-songwriter, Angelo De Augustine. He has issued three records including one self-released debut- Spirals of Silence, and two for Asthmatic Kitty Records.

The album consists of 14 songs loosely inspired by snippets of films such as Silence of the Lambs, Wizard of Oz, Wings of Desire, and Night of the Living Dead. All of the songs endeavor to study the meaning of life and death, and all of the moments that happen in between.

The duo journeyed to a month-long ~leave of absence~in upstate New York to work together in a cabin- so “Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago” of them. Their method was to watch the movies in the evening and paint the album’s picture in the morning. “Cimmerian Shade” is dedicated to The Silence of the Lambs, with an introspective look into the mind of the character, Clarice Starling. Lady Macbeth in Chains is a tribute to All About Eve, considering the irregularity of fame and narcissistic plotting.

The album features notes of gentle guitar picking and melodic piano lines throughout, guaranteed to help the listener find peace within the music. Stevens and De Augustine’s vocal harmonies and layering throughout form together to create one refined voice. It exhibits hints of classic Sufjan- especially similar to “Carrie and Lowell.”

It is safe to say the record is easy on the ears and works as a palate cleanser to Stevens’ ambient-driven release of The Ascension (2020). The sense of storytelling through music shines through here, creating an angelic listening experience. A Beginner’s Mind delivers an enchanting remedy for the hardships and sufferings of our current times.

Recommended If You Like: Bon Iver, Elliot Smith, Big Thief, The Magnetic Fields Recommended Tracks: 3 (Back To Oz), 10 (It’s Your Own Body and Mind), 13 (Cimmerian Shade), 14 (Lacrimae)
Do Not Play: None