The title alone of the L.A. based indie band Artichoke’s newest release, “Bees,” made me a little apprehensive. An entire album about bees? Maybe, I thought, the 13 bee-inspired titles—including “The Swarm,” “Vulcha Bee Sting” and, of course, “Honey”—were just thoughtful metaphoric titles to create some cohesion in an otherwise chaotic collection of songs. But no: this album is truly a collection of thirteen songs about … bees.
If you can get past the Hymenopterous titles and manage to overlook the descriptions on the CD jacket like “a beekeeping shepherd on the island of Crete,” the album provides a compilation of mellifluous indie pop songs, with a little bit of that sixties flair that has been all the buzz lately. The first song, “The Commune,” a head-bopping tune boasting a backup accordion, is worth a listen, if you don’t concentrate too hard on the lyrics. Unfortunately, despite a few gems, the album as a whole seems to be attempting to fit into a niche that doesn’t need filling. Artichoke’s sound, a combination of repetitive riffs and male/female vocals, is eerily reminiscent of She & Him, except without the adorable vocal stylings of Zooey Deschanel. While I think that novelty is sometimes overrated in a lot of indie music (Caribou, anyone?), I’m not even convinced Artichoke is bringing anything particularly new, let alone valuable, to the table (the fact that a quick Youtube search yields nothing but roasted artichoke recipes may be an album review in itself). While some songs aren’t complete drones, like the cheery “Windowsill,” others are simply a waste of iPod space. Maybe if a few of the songs were placed intermittently in a playlist it wouldn’t be so bad, but the album as a whole is just a little bit too much.
Grade: 4 out of 10.
–Q, host of “Wanderlust,” Tuesdays 10AM-11AM