When two great songwriters have the opportunity to build off each other’s strengths and habits in just the right environment, sublime work has the chance to flourish. Such has been the case thus far with Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, who last month delivered the divine singles “Reach Out” and “Olympus,” from their new collaborative LP A Beginner’s Mind, out Sept. 24 on Asthmatic Kitty. Today (Aug. 10), they’ve shared two new songs, “Back to Oz” and “Fictional California,” both expressive and emotional tracks that keep in line with the album’s theme of taking inspiration from various films, coming from 1985’s Return to Oz and 2004’s Bring It On Again, respectively.
“Fictional California’’ is soulful and intimate, recalling some of the best works of each songwriter. Instrumentally sparse and following a gentle rhythm, the song’s vocals seem to envelope you in the gorgeous refrain, which features lyrics “open your light to the darkness / open your heart, let it all hang out.” “Back to Oz,” on the other hand, is much more substantial and instrumentally full, featuring a catchy refrain, gorgeous layered drums, noisy drums and a groovy bass. While both artists thrive in minimalism, it’s thrilling to hear their efforts being translated into a grander sound so successfully.
De Augustine says of “Back to Oz,” “The words reference an erosion of a central character’s internal reality. A loss of innocence is the impetus for a journey to find inner truth. 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.” The track arrives with a music video directed by Alex Horan and animated by Clara Murray, which you can check out below, along with “Fictional California” and De Augustine’s Paste Studio session.