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Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine-A Beginner's Mind COLLABORATION REVIEW


Written Before Listen


Let me start by talking about Angelo de Augustine. I don’t know anything about him yet. After doing some slight research, He seemed kind of obscure before this release. No credits or session work that recognizable and nothing more than this album. Sufjan Stevens on the other hand is one of my favs. I love his classic work and I love his songwriting style. Projects like “Illinois” and the “All Delighted People EP” are some of my favorite indie-folk records ever made. I will also mention that “The Age Of Adz” and “Carrie & Lowell” are also obvious albums to check out as well. With that being said, Sufjan Stevens is a versatile artist who does a lot of collaborative work. A lot of that work gets overshadowed due to Stevens’ songwriting chops being out of the picture. Luckily, he is with another artist who seems to be a singer/songwriter so we might see some great material come out of this. Without further ado, let’s see what this album has to offer.


Production


With this being self-produced, there is a lot of creative freedom that was given on this album. I will say that Sufjan and Angelo tried their best to not take advantage of this aspect as the production is not so far away from the classic Sufjan work. The pianos are sustained and lush and the guitars are tape-recorded. There are rarely any drums here but the percussion brings a lot of blemishes when they are needed. Some tracks bring a unique ending. Songs like “Reach Out”, and “Lady Macbeth In Chains” end off with a surprising drum machine beat. Overall, I’m glad that Sufjan Stevens didn’t over-emphasize his ambition as the albums sound is perfect for him and Angelo to work with.


Concept


This has to be one of the best concepts I’ve heard in a long time. The entire concept of this album is that Sufjan and Angelo watch a movie and write a song about that movie. As a person who needs to improve his movie knowledge, I appreciate this a lot. Surely there are classics referenced such as Wizard Of Oz, Night Of The Living Dead, Clash Of The Titans, Silence Of The Lambs, and many more. A lot of these movies differentiate from each other. As you saw from the 4 movies I mentioned. One’s a Family movie classic, One is a zombie movie, one is a full-on fantasy and one is of the most legendary Psychological Thrillers of all time. Meanwhile, the music all sounds like they were meant to be together. I love this idea, and I now have some new movies to watch.


Influences


Other than the movies these guys watched, Sufjan and Angelo take the folk-influence that Sufjan is known to take. Like most folk records Sufjan does, there is a heavy Elliott Smith influence on the guitar playing and vocal tracking. “Lady Macbeth In Chains”, “Murder and Crime” “Its Your Own Body And Mind” show Elliotts influence the most. On the opener, “Reach Out” I honestly got somewhat of a Bright Eyes appeal to it. Angelo on the other hand does take a lot from one particular indie-folk legend….Sufjan! I don’t know if it’s me or not, but Sufjan seems to overtake the sound on this one. Maybe it’s because I’ve never heard Angelos work, but this album is a Sufjan album with some extra help.


Chemistry


With that being said, Sufjan does give Angelo his chances. Especially on the track “Fictional California” where Angelo brings a strong vocal performance by himself. On the other tracks, Angelo does take a heavy amount on the background vocals. The vocals are mixed equally, the harmonies are beautiful and I think both contributors know how much they need to contribute to creating an elite album.


Cons


It’s one small thing. I wish Angelo De Augustine took more of the album but even then, I’m not complaining too much. I think Sufjan is a fantastic musician with fantastic songwriting abilities. Although, With the help of Angelo De Augustine, good movies, and an awful 2020, Sufjan Stevens creates his best album since Carrie & Lowell.


Verdict


Yeah….This thing is fantastic. It’s everything I want in a Sufjan album, Good songwriting, good concepts, and luscious production. It might not be his absolute best work, but It’s easily a high contender of one of his best. I also hope this boosts Angelo De Augustine’s career. I’d love to hear what he has to release in the future. On the other hand, I’m glad with having this.


9/10



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