I’ve been celebrating my newfound freedom to listen to whatever the the hell I want by going through the oeuvre of Charming Hostess. At least most of their oeuvre; browsing through their website, it would seem that I am missing Thick and Grim. So maybe I’ll have a followup post next week.

Anyways: I first heard about them when I heard one of their members (I would say their leader, but I’m honestly not sure what sort of organizational structure they have; I’ll just say that she gets credited with music and lyrics fairly frequently), Jewlia Eisenberg, on a KPFA program about Walter Benjamin. (I guess radio is good for something.) Whom I hadn’t read at the time, but I’d been hearing about him from various trustworthy sources.

They played a couple of songs from her album Trilectic; I can’t remember what one of them was, but the other one, “Meister der Kultur”, was totally designed to push all my buttons. It’s in German, about Asja Lacis berating Benjamin about how, even though they all agree that capitalism is the pits, he can’t get wholeheartedly behind communism, either. It’s sung a capella, with beautiful modal harmonies.

So I got that album; really really good. (Aside from “Meister der Kultur”, I also particularly recommend “Eskimo Suit”.) And then two of their other albums, Eat and Punch. Both of which are a mix of folk songs (from various Jewish and central European communities) and pop with some nice funk aspects to it (if I have my genres down right). The former is pleasant enough, though not necessarily what I would seek out on my own; the latter is quite good, and while I’m a big fan of their a capella songs, there are some very nice bass lines and (if I recall correctly) horn playing on several of the latter tracks. Yay.

I was expecting to really like their most recent album, Sarajevo Blues, but I’m a bit nonplussed. Like Trilectic, the album is focusing on a theme that I would think I’d be interested in, but the execution isn’t so great. “Death is a Job” is quite good, but even it is marred by excessively obtrusive beatboxing, as are some of the other tracks. (Not that I’m against beatboxing – in fact, I’d been thinking that I should look for some good examples of it – but it doesn’t work for me here.) Still, I’d rather be in a world with ambitious failures than bland successes…

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