Album review: Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine free the soul in “A Beginner’s Mind”

Welcome to your new favorite Sufjan Stevens project. Stevens and collaborator Angelo De Augustine hit this relaxing and dreamy album right on the nose. This is not the duo’s first rodeo together. They have released two singles before this, with both having the same “sitting in a cabin in upstate New York, watching Wes Anderson films” vibe. 

This album is not my normal listening genre, it is much softer than I care to enjoy, but Stevens has a special place in my musical diet. His album “Illinois” is still in my top ten of all time and this collaboration album with Augustine feels well-timed and well-made. The dream-like vocals with ambient and simplistic instrumentals bring a feeling of intense calm.

Although I love the record, it can be boring at times. There is clearly technical skill going into this project, but it really can only be enjoyed in certain moods at certain times. This album isn’t for going to the gym, but taking a long drive in the Midwestern plains might be a little more satisfying.

“You Give Death A Bad Name” holds some of the most active instrumentals on the album. This track feels busier than the rest, housing heavier guitar and piano arrangements. This track is still enjoyable. Even though it doesn’t meet the general tone for the rest of the record, I still think it creates an energy within the album that is needed.

Notable tracks include “Lady Macbeth in Chains,” an incredibly well-made track about a broadway one hit wonder fighting their internal demons. The lyricism presented is immaculate and very enjoyable to even the softest of Macbeth fans or anyone who has a minimal understanding of Shakespeare. 

“Lacrimae,” the final track on this album, is also quite slick and entertaining. Hearing Stevens drop into his lower vocal range feels like a well-accepted change. This track also holds some of the more ephemeral instrumentals, something I look for in his work. It does have an abrupt and somewhat disappointing ending though.

My favorite of the 14 songs is “Reach Out,” the opening for this soft and magical record. This truly healed my mental illness woes, revived all my dead houseplants and carried me through the week. Although the other tracks blend together and feel somewhat dull, this track is infinite and nearly perfect. I give “A Beginner’s Mind” 3.9 Mikey heads out of 5.

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