Photo: Spacebomb Records via Bandcamp

Folk Singer-Songwriter Bedouine Innovates and Mesmerizes on ‘Songs of a Killjoy’

By the time Songs of a Killjoy is halfway through, it feels almost impossible to escape Bedouine's gravitational pull - and unthinkable that anyone would even want to do so.

Songs of a Killjoy
21 June 2019

Singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian – Bedouine to her audiences – has an instantly recognizable voice. Low and smooth, its power belies a grace both gentle and lithe. On new album Bird Songs of a Killjoy, she leans into this strength, and sounds better than ever, velvet-lined and angelic, buoyant and steady. Her voice is all jewel-toned hues, soothing from the very start, the “One, two, three” that leads into lovelorn ballad “Under the Night”.

Born in Syria, raised in Saudi Arabia and around the United States, and now based in Los Angeles, Bedouine has an interesting history that could have taken her in many musical directions. What she has developed, though, is a take on acoustic folk that tends toward southern California sunny, even at its most melancholy. Every song has a radiant core, a subtle and compelling glow. Though obvious vintage vibes influence her song crafting, Bedouine’s music never sounds like it comes from another time – the production is too clear, too modern, perhaps deliberately placing her right where she is. The music on Bird Songs of a Killjoy is fresher for it.

For about four tracks, the music of Bird Songs of a Killjoy moves easily, a sweet breeze with the occasional Americana twang. Then comes “Dizzy” – and Bedouine instantly blows all expectations out of the water. As she sings in that honeyed voice of Grecian beaches and desert mountain, a storm of soulful violins rises, underlain by crashing drums and dotted with sparkling synth notes. A breathtaking slide into the dramatic, it clears up just in time for pensive “Bird” (“It’s you against the rain / And I’m not sure yet who will win,” she sings), where mournful horns, flutes, and strings add tension to Bedouine’s soft-spoken words.

A story of growing up in the working class, trapped by economically-imposed limits on perceived artistic opportunities (“My mind was painting pictures only I could see”) adds urgency to Bedouine’s pleas (“Don’t let me down / I’m beating around a cage like a bird gone wild”) on “Bird Gone Wild”; dulcet guitar and violin lines cushion her vexation. A dynamic final bird song, “Hummingbird”, builds quickly from a beautiful solo introduction to an atmospheric journey thick with moving harmonies.

“Matters of the Heart” returns the album to a more uncomplicated place, where it stays for the final four swaying tracks. They comprise a rather long denouement for such a climactic midsection, but it’s still not easy to break away before the album is over. To listen to Bedouine, after all, is to let her hypnotize you, to surrender to rapture and return to daily life more refreshed for the time spent in her thrall. On Songs of a Killjoy, she innovates in unexpected ways, rejecting the monotony that she could easily embrace for a fully coffee shop-ready repertoire. She challenges herself and her audience to go deeper. By the time the album is halfway through, it feels almost impossible to escape her gravitational pull – and unthinkable that anyone would even want to do so. If this is what being a killjoy is all about, sign me up for the cantankerous life.

RATING 8 / 10