Sufjan Stevens – A Beginner’s Mind (2021) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Sufjan Stevens – A Beginner’s Mind (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/44,1kHz | Time – 45:27 minutes | 493 MB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Asthmatic Kitty

After having the promise of post-pandemic hope seemingly pulled out from under the world like a cheap rug, most of us could do with a balm. Songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine deliver the goods in the form of a truly comforting diversion. Stevens, of course, loves a concept album: He’s made them about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Michigan and Illinois, and his mother’s tragic life and death. This time, he teams with lo-fi California singer-songwriter De Augustine, who has made two albums for Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label. The theme is philosophical musings on movies, ranging from Old Hollywood (All About Eve) to monster flicks (The Thing), horror (Hellraiser III, Night of the Living Dead), modern classics (She’s Gotta Have It, Silence of the Lambs; the album is dedicated to director Jonathan Demme who died in 2017), even action (Point Break). Opener “Reach Out”-based on director Wim Wenders’ fantasy Wings of Desire-is a mindbender: Is this sublime harmony and gentle guitar Simon & Garfunkel circa 1965? Then there’s the twee and wistful, almost medieval folk of “Olympus” whose chanted “There’s no place like home” chorus might make you think The Wizard of Oz but is, in fact, based on Clash of the Titans and focuses on the love story of Perseus and Andromeda: “It’s the light on your hand/ It’s the touch of my wristband.” The magical land instead informs the dreamy “Back to Oz” although the source material here is the 1985 Fairuza Balk-starring sequel Return to Oz; it could almost pass for a Tame Impala song with twinkling melody, smooth guitar and the “get it right, follow my heart” message. Said De Augustine: “In the film, Dorothy returns to the world of Oz to find its landscape in ruins and its citizens frozen in stone. Only she can find the ruby slippers and return peace to Oz. Only we can save ourselves, but we first have to remember who we truly are.” He and Stevens approached the songwriting process with a sense of shoshin-the Zen Buddhist concept (translating to “beginner’s mind”) that encourages a lack of preconceptions and an embrace of eagerness. Which is pretty good advice when you’re using the movie “Bring It On Again”-not even the original, but the 2004 sequel-as fodder. “Fictional California” strips away the cheerleading story’s pep and bop but keeps a sun-dappled feel and offers surprising insight: “I look alive but I feel so dead inside, I’m bleeding/ Gonna break a leg with a basket toss/ For the loss of my broken dreams.” – Shelly Ridenour

1. Sufjan Stevens – Reach Out
2. Sufjan Stevens – Lady Macbeth In Chains
3. Sufjan Stevens – Back To Oz
4. Sufjan Stevens – The Pillar Of Souls
5. Sufjan Stevens – You Give Death A Bad Name
6. Sufjan Stevens – Beginner’s Mind
7. Sufjan Stevens – Olympus
8. Sufjan Stevens – Murder And Crime
9. Sufjan Stevens – (This Is) The Thing
10. Sufjan Stevens – It’s Your Own Body And Mind
11. Sufjan Stevens – Lost In The World
12. Sufjan Stevens – Fictional California
13. Sufjan Stevens – Cimmerian Shade
14. Sufjan Stevens – Lacrimae