Despite Azniv Korkejian’s increasing success as Bedouine, she still feels like a secret—and not the kind you’re impatiently waiting to spew out, but rather the kind you want to keep as your own, as close to your heart as possible. Then again, it is difficult not to gush about Bedouine’s modern folk fables and luscious voice.
Bedouine sounds as if she’s been plucked from Laurel Canyon in the ’60s, her music both effortless and beautifully intricate. Her lyrics are approachable, with a folky playfulness and poeticism. Each Bedouine track is a dream, a cosmic fog that flows easily into the ear, with the most polite seductiveness that enchants and ceaselessly delights.
Korkejian often intricately weaves the established folk sound with a contemporary, almost futuristic flair, mystical and otherworldly—somehow, still sounding timeless. On “The Wave,” Korkejian begins with an acoustic guitar, until moments later the picking is met with airy, occult instrumentals that almost capture what a shooting star would sound like. Near the chorus, magical little nuggets of sound feel straight from space, smoothly blending into the guitar and piano. Each instrumental moment peeks through every unsung moment of the track, a dimension entirely in itself, but equally as exquisite and light as Korkejian’s relaxed vocals.
Three albums in, Korkejian is still developing her musical style. Her 2017 self-titled debut and 2019’s Bird Songs of a Killjoy saw Korkejian toying with country, folk and soul, but Waysides may be the ideal album to help one understand what exactly her sound is blossoming into.
Syria-born, Saudi Arabia-raised and Los Angeles-residing, Korkejian’s nomadic spirit seeps into her music, both in instrumentation and lyrics. Her musical charisma has an otherworldly aura to it—wise, daring and whimsical, noting places like Chicago and Kentucky on Waysides as easily as she integrates various genres and influences from the folk stratosphere. It is this spirit that seems to pull off an album like Waysides, where sounds and thoughts from various past projects can still mingle and somehow sound cohesive, as if they were originally recorded together.
Waysides encapsulates the artist’s coming of age, grappling with emotions and experiences that come with gaining wisdom. It’s the kind of album that would back delicate daydreaming or frolicking through a field, as much as it would work for deep contemplation and nostalgia. Korkejian has a way of wrapping up rather heavy-hearted lyrics in a charming manner, so much so that the emotion at hand must often be extracted. Sometimes the emotional weight of the song is completely different from how the song sounds, as if one track can become two simultaneously. To use a phrase Korkejian herself sings in “You Never Leave Me,” her music is both “sweet and tough.”
“The Solitude” may be the best example of this duality, a rather buoyant, country-tinged track with dreary lyrics of accepting being alone after losing a lover. In the most observant part, the chorus, Korkejian sings of one-sided dinner tables and too many pillows on a bed with the slightest pep, rather than drenching the Joni Mitchell-inspired track in gloom. Korkejian’s ability to add a gracious warmth to every track even occurs when the the unhurried nature of her music is left behind.
Korkejian excels at concocting both warmth and intimacy in her music, and it is no more apparent than on “Sonnet 104,” where that closeness is at the core of the track. Beginning with a casual “Are we rolling?” remark, every strummed guitar string and background vocal feels near. The song is enchanting, with a subtle spiritual element that almost makes it hymn-like, with its rhythm and sweeping, decadent harmonies. These harmonies feel as if they would sit heavy in the air and have the force of a brisk wind, without sounding too ornate or extravagant. Korkejian maintains her warmth and intimacy by her precise simplicity.
Waysides acts like a diary, the pages left hidden in the back of the notebook. Korkejian has proven her ability to forge closeness and sincerity in past works, but her third album feels like her own secret, not only because the songs haven’t been shared before, but also because her development as an artist and person is now a bit more overt.
But this new side—Bedouine the confiding friend—establishes the most important thing about her music: Wherever she chooses to go with her sound, she can pull it off with a sun-soaked brilliance and simple elegance.
Ana Cubas is a music writer based in New York, who also occasionally dabbles in film reviews. Her focus is arts and cultural criticism.
Watch Bedouine’s 2019 Paste session below.