When you listen to the love songs of LA-based Bedouine, you will be reminded of Karen Dalton’s world-wise voice or the breathy seduction of Minnie Riperton’s vocals, the easy cool of French ye-ye singers, and the poetry of Joan Baez. Her folk is nomadic, wandering across time and space, and on the likes of new song “Dizzy” meander into danceable jams. On first discovery you may ask whether they’re dated to 2019, or whether you’ve uncovered some forgotten classic. It makes sense that singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian’s arrival – both musically and personally – on her second record has been influenced by her own wanderlust, displacement, and curiosity. “It’s called Bird Songs of a Killjoy, and I’m the killjoy,” she smirks over the phone from Sonoma, California. Azniv is based in LA, but is often travelling for the sake of musical inspiration. Her album title is something she’s still trying to decipher. “I’m figuring it out,” she says.
The twelve songs on Bird Songs of a Killjoy contain several references to birds, which initially panicked Azniv. “Oh no! What a cliché!” she recalls. Azniv is a scrupulous student of the greats, and often quotes from books by Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. In Mitchell’s biography, the songwriter talks about how she’d circle clichés in lyrics with a bold red pen and replace them. “That made me so self-conscious about how I go on and on about birds on this record,” she says. “But I have to step back and take a breath. These songs are just where I landed, and that’s OK.” When it comes to the “killjoy” of the title, Azniv describes the common perception of herself as a curmudgeon and a depressive. “Dare I say – a difficult women,” she continues, laughing. “I’m taking ownership of that stereotype, proudly.”
The music itself is the farthest from curmudgeonly or depressive as could be. It’s a soundtrack to Spring blossom, to warm air on skin, to the concept of possibility. Amazingly, despite the successes since her debut release, Bird Songs of a Killjoy rejects any pressures to be some kind of grand evolution from before. When her self-titled debut came out in the summer of 2017, Azniv was entirely unknown, and wasn’t necessarily looking to change that. The album she wrote in her free time while dealing with some emotional trauma and locking herself away in her house, was an exercise in diarizing, in expression without expectations. Some of the songs on this sophomore effort were from that same time period of fruitful creativity. She continued her creative partnership with Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones) who produced them in his studio.
Her music is often described as “nostalgic,” but that’s not her palette’s purpose for her. She works her songs on guitar, and does so as a means to understanding her feelings and compulsions. “I’m just trying to get to the bottom of the turmoil I’m feeling inside,” she says. The songs are so far from agony. They are tranquil and at peace, but therein provide the space for Azniv and her listeners to work through the difficulties. Like one of her biggest forebears and influences – Nick Drake – it’s the songs’ phrasings often, not their lyrics, that are depicting her innermost voices. Sometimes it’s important to remember that if a songwriter could say what they wanted to in words, they wouldn’t need melody at all. “Deep down we’re all capable of the same feelings,” she agrees. “Music without words discriminates even less to personal experiences, and allows us to have a feeling that’s universal, and that is something really special.”
Her gradual entry into the public conscience is similar to some of the artists she’s toured with since – the likes of Kevin Morby, Father John Misty and Michael Kiwanuka. “I do feel like I’m more in an artists’ community,” she says. Unlike other artists, however, Azniv is still stunned by the question of expectations for Bird Songs of a Killjoy. “All my work is on the front end,” she says. “All I can do is make sure I’m doing my best, putting my best foot forward, and honoring my emotional experience, but what it does in the end can’t matter as much.” For Bedouine, the songs have already served their healing purpose. Now it’s time for them to move others.