A Sophisticated New Sound
In the wide, wild world of indie folk, there’s music to pump you up, and then there’s music to dial you down. That’s where you will find Bedouine’s new self-titled album, in the spectrum of music that has a slower, softer touch.
Azniv Korkejian has a muted, delicate voice, one that evokes singer-songwriters of the 1970s. She uses descriptive scenes of cities, bedrooms and nature as she delivers raw emotional ideas about love and one’s own view of herself. Her band name, Bedouine, is a play on “Bedouin,” an apt reference for music that takes listeners on a journey.
The album opens with “Nice and Quiet,” a track that is true to its name and a fine introduction to Korkejian’s tones and style. She is also, out of the gate, self-aware and verbose as she sings about trying to keep her head “nice and quiet for you,” some kind of attempt to make things easier in wooing and keeping a significant other. The album’s instrumental vocabulary is also laid out here: Horns, shakers and easy brush-stroke percussion lay a soft and supple foundation decorated by strings and guitars, the kind of chic orchestral arrangements one might expect to hear in the opening credits of a twee film or while walking through a chic accessories boutique.
She channels an observant perspective; “It always comes back to you,” she sings on “Back to You,” against a mellowed-out, seventies-style, soulful horn outro, complete with shimmering woodwinds and orchestral swells. It’s a warm and enveloping sound, the kind one can get lost in. It’s a coffeeshop vibe similar to the one evoked by Norweigian folk-pop group Kings of Convenience or the lush landscapes of Half Waif.
“Dusty Eyes” is another standout that tinkers with a little bit of a torch song vibe — Korkejian lets her voice go deep and soar high against a waltzy, velvety backdrop. The work of her producer and collaborator Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones, The Black Keys) is exemplary on this song, and throughout the record, as the arrangement feels classic and modern all at once.
“I’m calm by my lonesome, I feel right at home,” she speak-sings on “Solitary Daughter,” a devotional ode to the time spent by oneself with the natural, cozy comforts of home. Books, radio, moonlight — what more does a peaceful evening need? Korkejian’s ability to take a stance for what might otherwise be pilloried as a “boring” life is admirable and enviable for all those who choose the company of their own head, heart and home over the machinations of other. It’s also a rallying cry for independent living: “I don’t need you your company to feel saved,” she sings, pointedly. It’s no wonder this single got her some acclaim from the likes of NPR and The Fader, as it’s a revealing song that could be relatable to a wide audience.
“Summer Cold” takes the view outward as the album’s most dramatic and stance-driven track. It references the guns and ammunition of the sort that have torn apart Korkejian’s native Syria before segueing into an interstitial piece meant to recreate the sounds of her grandmother’s street in Aleppo, according to her website. “Heart Take Flight” has a smaller instrumental setting, though Korkejian has some vocal harmonies to complement lighter woodwind tones. It’s the album’s most fluid version of a love song, the closest thing she gets to devotional, and a lullaby at that.
Closer “Skyline” has a poppier melody than some of the other tracks, and packs as heavy a literary punch as the rest. We hear our narrator talking to another, someone from her past who she is moving on from as she observes the world around her. It’s a balance of past and present: “You’re still my skyline,” she sings in the parting words, a beautiful metaphor to how one person can become so prominent and life-defining and at once still far away.
Bedouine manages to walk a beautiful line between vulnerable and confident, conversational and literary. She makes music that is both jewel toned and pastels; if these sounds were a painting, they would be an impressionistic watercolor where all the edges blended together up close but created beautiful images of flowers, water and moonlight from a distance. Her sounds are sophisticated, her words are eloquent, and, for a debut, her self-titled is worthy of attention.