About A Beginner’s Mind
Released in September of 2021, A Beginner’s Mind is a collaborative effort from Sufjan Stevens and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Angelo De Augustine. Each song has a distinct film inspiration, as listed at the end. These are unusual movies to to write a dreamy-folksy-indie-pop album about. Most titles are either commonly criticized, sequels, or simply left out of today’s pop culture scene. Many of the songs take on the point of view of misunderstood characters of movies. Notably, “Pillars of the Soul” and “You Give Death a Bad Name.” This is a unique take on an album that I have never seen done before. The songs aren’t gimmicky or obviously based on such films; instead, they feature tasteful nods.
In an article for Pitchfork, Nadine Smith explores the particularly “problematic” territory of the song “Cimmerian Shade” through the lens of a trans woman. The song is supposed to be from the point of Buffalo Bill, a character that has been weaponized against the trans community. Notably, she calls out the use of the word “autogynephilia” in the song, an outdated term that “dismisses transness as a sexual fetish isntead of a valid identity” (Smith, Pitchfork). Buffalo Bill is a character that represents institutional oppression for trans folks, so more caution may have been needed with word choice from Sufjan and Angelo. “Cimmerian Shade” was my favorite song off of this album, and I had no idea of its origin until reading Smith’s article. I’ve learned how valuable reading other perspectives is.
Angelo and Sufjan’s beautiful album creates a sense of longing, and feels as if it should be the backing for Greek mythology indie movie. With elements of their own music, A Beginner’s Mind is more vocal heavy, with angelically layered voices. Angelo and Sufjan put out amazing work individually, and this album is some of my favorite work of theirs. I really look forward to any future collaborations between these two.
Check out Nadine Smith’s beautifully written review for Pitchfork here.
- “Reach Out” inspired by Wings of Desire
- “Lady Macbeth in Chains” inspired by All About Eve
- “Back to Oz” inspired by Return to Oz
- “The Pillar of Souls” inspired by Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
- “You Give Death a Bad Name” inspired by Night of the Living Dead
- “Beginner’s Mind” inspired by Point Break
- “Olympus” inspired by Clash of the Titans
- “Murder and Crime” inspired by Mad Max
- “(This Is) The Thing” inspired by The Thing
- “It’s Your Own Body and Mind” inspired by She’s Gotta Have It
- “Lost in the World” inspired by The Last Wave
- “Fictional California” inspired by Bring It On Again
- “Cimmerian Shade” inspired by The Silence of the Lambs
- “Lacrimae” inspired by Lacrimae Rerum