Bedouine soars with tender, verdant Bird Songs of a Killjoy

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Bedouine’s music fits perfectly with a stroll. Between the easygoing, roving tempos and moody-bright lyricism, each song has a sense of the world passing by in a comfortable fashion. From the vantage of her music, the world is a vision that is lovely and unpretentious, even when it is marred by feelings of heartbreak and loneliness. 

The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter established herself with her 2017 self-titled release, which was anchored in naturalistic rhythms, acoustic instrumentals and the production assistance of frequent creative partner Gus Seyffert. Not only is Bird Songs of a Killjoy an extension of this musical sentiment, but it treads into deeper waters of the musician’s chamber-folk style. The 12-song work encapsulates feelings of longing, desire and nostalgia, making for an album that is instrumentally and emotionally rich. 

Bird Songs begins on a somber note with “Under the Night,” a lilting tune lyrically centered around a series of seemingly unanswered and unanswerable questions, ranging from “Do you still open your eyes / With me on your mind when you wake?” to “This beating in my chest is all I need to stash / And why shouldn’t I?” and, finally, “Are we really two people never getting together?” Ending on a slinking solo guitar line and a lush backdrop of strings, this first track feels like a cinematic conclusion but gently leads away from this existentialism. It rather threads a needle of longing that permeates the rest of the album in a more subtle fashion. 

The following track, the more upbeat “Sunshine Sometimes,” also communicates longing, but in the more immediate sense of the singer wanting to stay in with the object of her affection. She sings, “Don’t always feel like throwing back / I’d like a quiet night with you inside without catching flak / It’s all right if we put out a light.” The feeling of tenderness is also buoyed by Lbacking vocals from another singer, uncommon for Bedouine, that add texture and depth to the sung verses as well as a feeling of companionship in these contemplative moments. 

The fifth track, “Dizzy,” brings a sense of mild urgency to the pace of the album, ruminating on the artist’s struggles with insomnia. Beginning with a striking nonacoustic synth note, the song folds itself in a swirling, almost trippy jam, with waves of blippy guitar notes and layered strings. It cruises out by ramping up to near-chaos but slowly melts back into a languid beat, nearly fading out completely. The track mirrors the reverberating, spiraling feeling of being unable to drift away and, finally, the deep satisfaction of melting into sleep.

The three-part sequence of “Bird,” “Bird Gone Wild” and “Hummingbird” ties the album to its title and the avian themes it suggests. In each, birds represent a carefree, elusive essence, a testament to freedom and independence. In “Bird Gone Wild,” Bedouine sings, “I’m beating ’round a cage like a bird gone wild / Come back around / Strong hands, pull back the wire / Don’t let me down,” in an appeal to these aspects of her own persona and desire for freedom. The titular killjoy, then, comes across more as double entendre than direct reference, suggesting the artist’s balance between levity and a bent toward seriousness. 

“Echo Park” is the album’s bottle song, an ode to the artist’s hometown. The song is indulgent, but in a clearly genuine way that doesn’t become grating. It’s a meander through her favorite places that she calls home. The tune remains endearing even down to its final moments, which feature recorded songs from the park — a coda that could have come across as cheesy but instead continues the naturalism and general sentimentality woven in the album. 

Bird Songs of a Killjoy is a perfect release for the hot and reflective days of summer. Throughout the album, Bedouine is an expert narrator, leading the listener on a serene trip through emotion and melody, and interweaving amid easy beats her musings on loneliness, love and lingering feeling.

Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected].