"Latham's music is passionate with biting wit."--NPR
"One of the sharpest songwriters to emerge of late on the antifolk sphere...Charles Latham could be your new hero."--The Independent Weekly
"3.5 stars out of 5"--Pitchfork
Charles Latham wields an acid tongue and a poison pen, crafting social criticism, tragicomic narratives, and brutal self-analysis into three and a half minute ramshackle folk-pop songs. His songs are often exercises in duality: he finds humor in horror and horror in humor, the profane in beauty and beauty in the profane. In a live performance, his audience often laughs and smiles, but he rarely does. His lo-fi home recordings compliment the harsh honesty of his lyrics; his guitar buzzes and rings, and his snarling voice leaps, cracks and cries. His music is as equally influenced by folk and country as it is by punk, British Invasion-era rock, and Brill Building-style pop.
Originally from Virginia, Charles Latham began playing music professionally while living in Brighton, England as a student. The UK's folk-punk or "antifolk" scene adopted him as one of their own: Latham was the only non-British act to perform at the 2004 Winter Antifolk Fest in London. In 2005, Latham was voted "Best of Sussex" by a panel of judges at the Sussex Battle of the Bands, winning the grand prize.
After returning to the States, Charles Latham completed his first full-length album, "Pretty Mouth" in the spring of 2006; the album is a collection of home recordings captured on an 8-track in various locations in the UK and at his home in Virginia. The album was self-released, and has been met with enthusiastic acclaim in both the US and UK (see Press). Several songs from the album, including "Memorabilia" and "My Perfect Church", have received frequent radio airplay; "Nice (to me)" was featured on NPR. "Boot Hill" is listed as one of the top "Songs of the Times" on Neil Young's Living With War site. A non-album track, "The Internet Sexual Predator Talking Blues", a song about the scandal surrounding ex-Congressman Mark Foley, was given 3.5 out of 5 stars by Pitchfork. “Hard On” has been covered extensively by contemporaries worldwide.
While living in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, Latham created Antifolk SouthEast, a loose collective of local folk-punk musicians, and co-produced the Antifolk SouthEast Winter Extravaganza 2007, a showcase of musicians in the collective, and the first festival of its kind in the area. The event was a success.
In the tradition of the wandering troubadour, Charles Latham moves frequently, and in the last ten years has lived in six different cities both in the U.S. and abroad. He has performed throughout the United States and United Kingdom, including major music festivals such as the Hopscotch Music Festival.
Latham, currently residing in Tennessee, continues to write, record, and perform.
Charles Latham: guitar, vocals, drums, bass, keyboards, percussion.
Organ Donor (2003)
Calle Verde EP (2004)
Pretty Mouth (2006)
Live at WXDU (2006)
Legend: The Best of Charles Latham (2008)
Come Clean EP (2009)
Squares (I'm Trying to Get in Shape) Single (2010)
Oil! Single (2010)
Not Gonna Be Down Today (No Depression) Single (2010)
Everybody Else Likes Me (Why Don't You?) Single (2011)
I'm Moving Back to My Parent's House Single (2011)
Third Wheel Single (2011)
Fast Loans (2012)
King of Hollywood/Next To Nothing Blues Split 7" w/ Withered Hand (2013)
Track Review: Charles Latham--
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Bob Dylan was rarely the hold-hands-and-sing folk writer some imagined: Sure, he wanted the world to...Bob Dylan was rarely the hold-hands-and-sing folk writer some imagined: Sure, he wanted the world to be better, but he was a devout individualist, a kid from the Midwest living in the city under a new name, trying to make himself happy. His songs spoke less to Peter, Paul & Mary utopianism than his what’s-going-on utilitarianism. Fast forward four decades, and “Mr. Tambourine Man” might have been called “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.”
Durham’s Charles Latham gets this: In this clever, unavoidable rub on Mark Foley, Latham laments everything, from the conservative stance on homosexuality to Washington’s predilection for doling blame. He decries politicians’ reproductive rights, and notes that Monica Lewinsky was old enough to smoke that cigar. Over ramshackle acoustic blues, Latham even recommends sterilizing legislators, as if to say pedophilia is this administration’s least important lost cause. People can't see eye-to-eye on every issue-- Latham's humor admits that much here. But maybe they could stop fucking with each other.
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Charles Latham "Nice to Me"
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Open Mic, May 15, 2007 · Charles Latham is a lo-fi indie folk artist originally from Washington, D.C...Open Mic, May 15, 2007 · Charles Latham is a lo-fi indie folk artist originally from Washington, D.C., now living in Chapel Hill, NC. Citing artists from the Beatles to Prince as influences, Latham's music is passionate with biting wit.
In his online bio, Latham says he "blew (his) inheritance on a massive underground bunker, which (he) stocked with low-grade instruments, recording equipment, liquor and ready-meals." Since it was completed he's "released an album a year, most of which have disappeared into obscurity."
Latham moved from D.C. to Brighton, England in 2003 to go to school. But he found he was more interested in making music. He won a songwriting contest at the University of Sussex, where he was studying English, and was awarded some free studio time. He used the prize to record his first album.
After attending several Open Mic nights in Brighton, fans told them he was making "antifolk" music. Though Latham had never heard the term before, he's since come to identify with its aesthetic: a sound rooted in punk rock that's raw and brash with more traditional folk instrumentation.
Latham's latest CD is Pretty Mouth and the featured track is "Nice to Me."
Artist(s) Who Deserve Your Friendship: Death Panel
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It’s funny when I get put on the spot to suggest a new artist for someone to check out. Oh, the pres...It’s funny when I get put on the spot to suggest a new artist for someone to check out. Oh, the pressure of a name! Lately, what local artist keeps popping up in my headphones and putting me in a good mood has to be Death Panel (a.k.a. Sir Charles Latham). His melodies are homey, and his quirky, witty lyrics capture the humor and ridiculousness of everyday life in a not so everyday mind. If you are a lyrics person like myself, you have to know that this guy is something special. Long live Death Panel! Check out his anti-folk/indie pop gems at The Fire tonight! myspace.com/sircharleslatham - Q.D. Tran
New Music: Charles Latham - "Come Clean"
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Any friend of Elliott Smith is a friend of mine. Charles Latham’s “Come Clean” recalls Smith circa E...Any friend of Elliott Smith is a friend of mine. Charles Latham’s “Come Clean” recalls Smith circa Either/Or — that’s definitely Elliott on the drums, right? — if a bit less haunted. Though the music’s brighter, Latham carries anxiety in his warble, considering a warm world splashed with cold blood. “You picked the perfect words to say those ugly things,” he sings, but Latham’s music is anything but.
Charles Latham - "I'm Moving Back to My Parent's House"
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“I know a place where rent is free,” Charles Latham sings in “I’m Moving Back to My Parents’ House,”...“I know a place where rent is free,” Charles Latham sings in “I’m Moving Back to My Parents’ House,” but his post-college malaise isn’t the satirical Portlandia variety. Instead, the ramshackle folk effort takes a sincere approach strengthened by its ’50s pop shoo-bops: “How, how long until things get weird?/Till we’re arguing about my curfew, till I’m stealing beer?” Not very long, pal. It’s an anthem for our times, as well as a tune that’d charm on any subject. Here more Latham on Bandcamp.
The folkin' brilliance of Charles Latham
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Monday, 8 October 2012 The folkin' brilliance of Charles Latham Don't think you know Charles Lath...Monday, 8 October 2012
The folkin' brilliance of Charles Latham
Don't think you know Charles Latham? Bet you know Hard On, which Withered Hand covered. And if you know the world weariness of Phil Ochs, the sweet melodic intuition of Paul Simon and Michael Nesmith's downhome country, then you know Charles Latham.
Latham's songs are equal parts funny, wry and desolate. His observational thumbnail sketches will slay you. How about the opening lines to the ironically solipsistic My Perfect Church, "I pray from my toilet seat, make my holy life complete/My god hears me when I speak, can yours say the same"?
Or the pathos of Applications For Employment, "Interview after interview, beg for jobs I don't wanna do"? These songs and more, all bittersweet beauts, are on Legend: The Best Of Charles Latham. The whiskey-soaked misery keeps on coming on new album Fast Loans, a collection centring on financial woes:
Inevitably, Latham is cash poor. There's a UK tour in November and a kickstarter, which you can use to buy Fast Loans. Oh, and UK gig promoters, he's got some dates in his diary to fill.
Hell Yeah, Hopscotch: Charles Latham (Interview)
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Donkey Jaw: You’ve said that “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House” was inspired by the best minds o...Donkey Jaw: You’ve said that “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House” was inspired by the best minds of your generation having to head back to the nest. There was a recent article in “The Guardian” about the perpetual man-child and “prolonged state of infantile bliss” as the new American dream. What are your thoughts on that?
Charles Latham: There has been a lot of harsh criticism of what has been referred to as the “boomerang generation”. What’s often left out of these critiques is that young adults who are moving back home after college or a period of living independently aren’t necessarily doing so by choice, or because of a reluctance to mature: the combined factors of a poor job market, the ever-rising cost of living, and, for so many, crushing student loan debt, often makes independence unsustainable. This phenomenon began well before the Bush Recession was a publicly acknowledged reality, and hasn’t had the benefit of a sympathetic analysis. If young men and women living at home with their parents have become perpetual children, it is a symptom rather than the illness itself. It’s actually the antithesis of the American Dream rather than a new version.
I wanted to write a first-person narrative that expressed the emotionally complex nature of this particular situation: here is a person who is experiencing failure at an early stage in life, due to circumstances which he doesn’t even realize are beyond his control.
I tried to make “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House” (which could be an essay) into a three minute song.
It’s been several generations in this country since the state of the economy has been felt at such an immediate, every-day, gut level, and that thread runs through every one of these songs.
You write in the same dark, but wildly entertaining/comedic vein of songwriters like Steve Poltz and Hayes Carll. Ever listen to those guys?
I haven’t yet heard either songwriter, but from your description I’m sure I would like them. I like “dark and wildly entertaining” .
How do you craft the characters in your songs?
I tend to write about myself or people I know, or situations I could easily find myself in. I use songwriting as a way of personalizing social issues.
Your single “The Internet Sexual Predator Talking Blues”, a song about the scandal surrounding ex-Congressman Mark Foley was blessed by Pitchfork. Seems like they would be ripe subject matter for the picking some day given the love/hate relationship folks have with their opinions. Any plans for something like that?
That would be a bit hypocritical of me, as I tend to use songwriting as an outlet for my own critical opinions. I don’t always agree with their reviews and tastes, but not any less than any other outlet. Criticism isn’t objective journalism.
People often use the term “tastemaker” like it’s a bad thing. If Pitchfork has succeeded at being widely read, good for them.
I would never fault anyone for writing about art, and thereby placing an importance on it, especially in this country, where music and art programs are always first under the knife in our educational system.
A few years ago, you made a trip to NYC to explore the origins of the antifolk movement at The Sidewalk Cafe and subsequently founded Antifolk SouthEast. Do you still keep up with any of those players?
One of the many reasons I’m so excited to be part of the Hopscotch Music Festival this year is to make music with and hear the music of my friends in North Carolina. Antifolk SouthEast consisted of musicians from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (“The Triangle”) area, all of whom, I’m proud to say, I’m still in contact with. In fact, members from two of the principal bands in the collective (The Wigg Report and Midtown Dickens) will be joining me on stage at Hopscotch.
What was the biggest lesson learned from those days?
It took moving away to learn that vibrant, supportive local music scenes don’t exist in every city.
You are releasing your latest collection of songs “Fast Loans” exclusively at Hopscotch Music Festival 2012. Tell me more about that and the nifty eco-packing for the music.
The last thing the world needs is more plastic, so “Fast Loans” will be available as a digital album, accessible by purchasing a card with a unique download code. The card is made of 100% recycled (and recyclable) material.
I chose to package the album this way because there isn’t any other information I’d like to convey other than the music and the artwork: I wrote, recorded, and produced the songs by myself, so there aren’t any other musicians to acknowledge, or anything special about the process. I didn’t record it in the woods or in the south of France, just mostly in my bedroom in various apartments in Philadelphia (where I lived until recently).
Charles Latham makes his Hopscotch debut alongside Curtis Elller, Elephant Micah, and Donovan Quinnat at Five Star on Thursday, September 6th at 10:30PM.
Review: Charles Latham (aka Death Panel) @ Northstar Bar
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Last week I finally got to see two acts I have been really digging for a while now; Philly’s Charles...Last week I finally got to see two acts I have been really digging for a while now; Philly’s Charles Latham (aka Death Panel) warmed the Northstar Bar stage for Nashville’s Tristen.
Up first with a genuine dose of anti-folk humble-pop was Charles Latham who, depending on the minute, also goes by Death Panel. He is but a man on a stage with a guitar but his songs evoke the presence of a variety of characters from the objects of his affection to the voices in his head. His lyrics are often self-depreciating vignettes – sometimes literal to an awkward degree- and always delivered with a choir boy honesty.
When you see Latham live the candor of his anti-folk approach is central to his performance. He possess the musical skill to play catchy guitar riffs and the fact that he has chosen to pair what otherwise could easily be another radio friendly indie track with lyrics about rejection and hard ons that are disarmingly alluring. Giving each song a quick intro he professed his performance theory of “flying without a net.” To a certain extent the social discomfort expressed in his songs is constantly present on the stage but after a few minutes I warmed to the discord and balls out attitude conveyed by Latham. It was the perfect way to start pulling folks in from the bar for the rest of the evening’s line up. He has a new album out soon and while the record doesn’t possess the awkward charm of his live set it does demonstrate his skill at writing some damn catchy tunes.
"Beltline" Record Review--Urban Folk Magazine, Fall 2007
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Charles Latham ~ Beltline When I saw Charles Latham perform recently at the New York AntiFolk Fest,...Charles Latham ~ Beltline
When I saw Charles Latham perform recently at the New York AntiFolk Fest, his unique lyrical perspective as well as his ability to wail some pretty high notes captivated me immediately. If the recording of Beltline is a bit muffled at parts due to its lo-fi aesthetic, Latham more than compensates for this with his acerbic wit and gifted songwriting ability. In fact, I would argue that the unpolished recording suits Latham perfectly: it helps communicate the vulnerability, unpretentiousness, and immediacy of his songs. Latham’s thoughts are so refreshingly insightful and funny, in particular the song “Drown in the Tears of Your 20s” comes to mind. The song illustrates the progression of a bitter 20-year-old
into a 30-year-old eating ribs with a bib, to a nostalgic 40-year-old balding and getting fatter, finally becoming a know-it-all 50-year-old with children who hate him. Though this song, like many of the others on the CD has a slightly depressing cynical tone (in the sense that truth can be hard to swallow), listeners who harbor their own cynical views of society will probably
end up finding Latham’s observations hilarious. Other standout tracks are “Rich Girls”, in which Latham envisions an alternate life for himself dwarfed by affluence, and the brilliant “Whiskey Morning Song”, in which Latham finds it “apropos” to see his face in a toilet. The songs need to be experienced, to understand their poignancy. Now
that Charles Latham has moved from the SouthEast to Philly, one can only hope he’ll be in New York more often to perform. Do whatever you have to do to get
your hands on Beltline.
(reviewed by Max Vernon)
Charles Latham and friends turn the Triangle toward antifolk
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In April 2005, Charles Latham made a trip to New York. That's something folks do all the time. But...
In April 2005, Charles Latham made a trip to New York. That's something folks do all the time. But Latham just didn't just go to New York. He made a pilgrimage. He was looking for 94 Avenue A in the heart of the East Village: The Sidewalk Café, the cradle of antifolk.
Latham was looking for a guy named Lach who pioneered the antifolk scene in New York two decades ago. Legend has it, Lach came to New York like so many boys from so many small towns: He wanted to be the next Dylan.
But Lach's folk was too punk, and he was kicked out of the coffeehouses. So he stayed true to his punk leanings. Not fitting in didn't stop him. He kept doing his own thing. He started calling it antifolk. If, 20 years later, antifolk is a religion (and, for Latham, it may be), Lach is its principal deity. And if The Sidewalk Café is Lach's Mecca, Latham arrived with the awe and reverence of the most devout pilgrim.
"The anti-hootenannies at The Sidewalk are so many light years ahead of your average open mic," Latham says. "It's a total talent fest."
Latham has played at The Sidewalk three times. That April, he got a gig there with his favorite antifolk band The Bobby McGees. He was a ball of nerves. "They were so good, I kind of forgot I had to play," he says. "I was pretty intimidated and didn't play very well." But he kept trying: He returned to The Sidewalk in December 2005. The show was another disappointment.
But, last May, he went back. He nailed it. "Everyone was stomping and shouting and clapping along and digging it ... I was ecstatic. That was probably my best set ever. I felt like I was home."
Lach even came to the show. Before he left, Latham asked Lach if he could come back and play again. Lach replied, "You've got a home here."
Latham is still gushing: "I felt like the Ray Liotta character in Goodfellas—a made man."
Antifolk, as it has descended from people like Lach to songwriters like Latham, is a quirky combination of lo-fi folk and punk with a do-it-yourself aesthetic. Like their folk predecessors, antifolk singers are storytellers with acoustic instruments. But their songs are edgy: Like their punk antecedents, antifolk singers are prone to unvarnished truth-telling and a disdain for political correctness. They're often humorous and less idealistic than folk musicians, and their acoustic instruments can be used in unpolished, unorthodox ways. "It's that truth over beauty thing that probably describes it most simply," says Hunter MacDermut, who leads Cary's The Tourist and collaborates with Latham. As Latham reckons, though, "It's a commitment to originality above all else."
Latham's take is especially interesting since he started playing what he now calls antifolk music without even knowing the niche existed. He moved to Brighton, England in 2003 to study English at the University of Sussex, but songwriting quickly became his reason for picking up a pen. He won first prize in a university-sponsored songwriting contest. The prize was un-billed time in a recording studio. He cut his first record there ("I wouldn't hoist it upon my worst enemy"), and he began frequenting different open mics in Brighton. That's where he met The Bobby McGees. And he heard the word that changed his life. "They told me 'What you're doing is kind of like punk-folk ... it's called antifolk,'" he says.
Those words were music to his ears. "Before that, I thought maybe I was alt-country, which is really just shorthand for country that doesn't completely suck," he says. The McGees also gave him an antifolk compilation. He cried the first time he listened. "I laughed a lot, too. I kind of alternated between the two."
Latham returned to his hometown of Washington, D.C., before moving to Chapel Hill in the summer of 2005 to be with his girlfriend. He assumed that he'd be going the antifolk route alone, yet again. Surely a scene for such music didn't exist in North Carolina, right?
Stephen Mullaney, drumming, on Latham: "I cried when I first heard some of his songs."
Photo by Derek Anderson
"To be honest, I kind of figured it would be a bunch of frat rock party bands who played covers," Latham says. It took Latham about four months to learn he was wrong. The Wigg Report—the Durham trio of Stephen Mullaney, Christine Fantini and Ben Riseling—had organized an antifolk night for the first Troika Music Festival. It blew Latham away.
"I drunkenly danced my ass off during their set," he remembers. "I loved how they could get such a full sound out of just three people and barely a drum kit."
Latham approached The Wigg Report after their set. They loved much of the same music, but head Wigg Mullaney felt an unwelcome sense of obligation when Latham handed him his second record, Pretty Mouth.
"You know how it can be when people give you their CDs. It's kind of like, 'Oh shit'," Mullaney says. But then he listened. "Latham may have cried when he heard his first antifolk compilation, but I cried when I first heard some of his songs."
When Latham started gigging locally, he asked The Wigg Report to join him onstage. That's now a tradition. It's common to see Mullaney—who plays guitar in Wigg, but who used to be a punk drummer on a major label—back Latham on drums. Latham even named his own kid-sized drum set "Little Stevie." These are just signifiers of a growing, communal bond among Durham musicians.
Consider Latham's relationship with Midtown Dickens, the Durham duo of Kym Register and Catherine Edgerton. Latham added them to his growing circle of antifolk friends the moment he saw them: "I nearly jumped out of my skin," he remembers. "I kept thinking, 'This is it, this is it, here is what I've been looking around for.' I wanted to make music with these people."
Latham gave the Dickens a copy of his album Pretty Mouth after the show. They agreed to play with him on Ross Grady's celebrated music show, Local Live on WXDU. He hates to play without them, and that makes for a complete mutual admiration society.
"The first time I saw Charles play, I felt like someone just let me be the first to read their satirical version of their autobiography," Register says. "He has the ability to make you feel he's confessing everything to you, and you're the only one around to listen. Even when you're watching in a group of audience members."
The connections don't just stop with Latham, Midtown Dickens and The Wigg Report. As Shayne O'Neil, from Durham's Future Kings of Nowhere puts it, "Kym and Catherine play with the Future Kings, I play on their stuff, they play on Charles' songs, Charles plays with The Tourist, et cetera, et cetera." From there, the connections and friends are endless.
Latham emphasizes that what he's part of in the Triangle isn't exactly a collective, even though everyone in his circle plays with everyone else. They promote each other, share instruments and trade gigs. But they don't want to be exclusive. They want this to grow, more like a movement than a club. Latham says that antifolk's embrace of imperfection—barely tuned instruments, unorthodox voicing, wry lyrics and all—could be salutary for any community's spirit. That's just as true in Durham as it is anywhere else.
"Antifolk is saying, 'You've had enough practice, come out and play something. Play an open mic, play on the street. Don't worry about what you sound like, just worry about what you're saying, and whether or no you mean it,'" he says. "I think that's good for any community. I think it's a cure for a lot of the posturing and posing that plagues music scenes all over the country, not just here."
Local Reviews: Charles Latham's "Pretty Mouth"
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Charles Latham writes like a tortured gemologist: Every time he digs just beneath the crust and find...Charles Latham writes like a tortured gemologist: Every time he digs just beneath the crust and finds a jewel, he admires it without cleaning it, refusing to polish away the dirt left from the earth that shaped the object of his obsession. Likewise, when self-described antifolk songwriter Latham finds a perfect melody or twist of phrase, he leaves it alone, obstinately refusing to shape it to perfection. His uncertain words remain as is, addled by a world that thinks his losing streak is nifty, and paired to the cracks in his voice and the buzz of his tape machine. It's an absolutely winning effect.
Over the nine songs on Pretty Mouth, Latham maintains his sanity by manning up to screwy situations in his own semi-serious way: "Nice (to Me)" confronts a beneficiary who had rather buy Latham dinner than give him a smile. He seems genuinely agitated by what's happening, his guitar strings rattling and his voice cracking, pleading "Why can't you be nice to me?" again and again without flinching. But winks come in spades: "You can be hot for me, buy all my pot for me;" "Wear thongs, write songs or sickly devour me;" "Most of you is a ghost of you that's vanished, my dear." He's resigned to joking about his place for some small personal victory, and the images invoke empathy as much as laughter.
Elsewhere, songs about wet dreams as symbols of mounting mundane frustrations ("Nite Man") and praying to a one-man, materialism-friendly god from a toilet seat ("My Perfect Church") pit major problems against a minor crooked smile. Even the protagonist from one of the disc's more stoic moments, "Applications for Employment," dives for grins: His attempts to sell out have been unsuccessful, though his business suit makes him shifty. "Vacationing when it's economical," he's painted in enough hyperbole to make him amusing.
Latham is a ramshackle arranger with a sharp pen. That combination gives Pretty Mouth pretty much all the polish, dirt and shimmer it should ever need. --Grayson Currin
Charles Latham "Pretty Mouth" (Album Review)
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I'm still not too sure exactly what Anti-folk is. Where do you draw the line between folk proper and...I'm still not too sure exactly what Anti-folk is. Where do you draw the line between folk proper and it's more contemporary evil antithesis? Perhaps I'm not a million miles off if I describe it as folk music played with a punk rock attitude. That doesn't mean Washington's Charles Latham hammers the hell out of his instruments or spits on his audience of course, but his hummable ditties about wet dreams, and dressing in leather are pure Buzzcocks (lyrically at least).
Applications For Employment (another favourite topic of punk bands of course) is a lovely intimate affair. And it's a theme we can all relate to. Goddamn job applications, don't even get me started... The country tinged Boot Hill is also very good and makes use of some nice wobbly violin-playing.
But it's the upbeat Memorabilia that's the standout track. It recalls the best of Donovan's 60s stuff and is also reminiscent of Eels. The standard of most Anti-folk releases is generally fair-to-good, but this is up there with the very best - Jeffrey Lewis, The Moldy Peaches. Tellingly it's the least abrasive (both lyrically and musically) of the tracks of the 9 on offer here.
(Sometimes) The Bad Guys... is another excellent piece of songwriting - a little like The Lilys, a little like Pavement. It's a perfect happy-sad folk tune that has Summer written all over it.
Tracks like Hard On are obviously a little bit on the rude side, and some people would call that unnecessary (like my Dad for example). It's also a matter of your personal sense of humour as to whether you find lines like "I pray for my toilet seat, make my holy life complete." But without the rude bits it just ain't Anti-folk pops.
Review: Withered Hand + Charles Latham
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The Scotsman: Review : Withered Hand Scotsman, The (Edinburgh, Scotland) - Saturday, November 24, 2...The Scotsman: Review : Withered Hand
Scotsman, The (Edinburgh, Scotland) - Saturday, November 24, 2012
Author/Byline: FIONA SHEPHERD
MUSIC, Withered Hand, Mono, Glasgow **** Dan Willson was brought up as a Jehovah's Witness, but now he is a born again troubadour called Withered Hand (a biblical reference) who writes about his cultish past with self-deprecating humour and insightful humanity.
His 2009 debut album, Good News, is a spindly, lo-fi gem, rendered in his reedy, plaintive and affecting tones. But for this show, he was backed by full band, strings, accordion and rhythm section, bringing out the folk and country flavours of his music, while retaining the charming naivety.
Suitably souped up with mandolin and backing harmonies, Love In The Time Of Ecstasy was imbued with a delicate, devotional quality, while the indie canter of New Dawn gained some testifying momentum.
No Cigarettes, a gorgeous heartbreaker, was handled with care, requiring little more than Willson's sensitive delivery to carry it off. A couple of new songs didn't quite have the same melodic pull but any writer would find it a challenge to top the likes of Religious Songs, a darkly witty portrait of the days when he would go "knocking on Kevin's door".
US singer/songwriter support - and Withered Hand penpal - Charles Latham is a similarly droll lyricist, heading off the sappy self-pitying potential of numbers such as Everybody Likes Me, Why Don't You? with laugh-out-loud lines and truly bad Scottish jokes. His conversational vocal style and simple, smart, sometimes satirical rhyming couplets were reminiscent of an indie Loudon Wainwright.
Hopscotch Music Festival 2012 - Charles Latham
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Much of the time, Charles Latham is a coy smartass in a nerd mask. His solo or sparely backed compos...Much of the time, Charles Latham is a coy smartass in a nerd mask. His solo or sparely backed compositions feature clueless protagonists innocently wallowing in their own melodrama. He might beg you to be “Nice (to me),” kvetch that “Everybody Else Likes Me (Why Don’t You),” or even try to put a nice spin on “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House.” On the recently released tune “Third Wheel,” he longs for the pleasure of joining a pair of friends, a rather foreboding sign.
His naïfish affectation suggests Jonathan Richman gone sour. Rather than revel in his characters’ earnest hopefulness, Latham likes to linger on their willing self-delusion or self-destructiveness. He does let that guard down at times. On the haunting “Come Clean,” for instance, he channels his best, breathy Elliott Smith, remarking, “Every word I say reeks like a cigarette.”
Latham started playing seriously while attending school in Brighton, England around 2004, discovering kindred spirits in the U.K. antifolk scene. Originally from Virginia, he headed to Durham when he finished school. While in North Carolina, he released his debut LP, Pretty Mouth, and another album, Beltline, a year later in 2007. They received significant attention, scoring radio play and good notices on NPR and Pitchfork. In 2009, he released his Come Clean EP.
Since then, Latham’s moved to Nashville, playing with a variety of different folks on a half-dozen singles during the last two years. Still witty, they show a growing appreciation for pop elements and more varied instrumentation. It may be that Latham’s slowly outgrowing the more primitive elements of his sound, much as John Darnielle did when he ditched the boombox. —Chris Parker
Troika 06: The Indy's guide to every band at this year's festival
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Charles Latham: One of the sharpest songwriters to emerge of late on the anti-folk sphere, Charles L...Charles Latham: One of the sharpest songwriters to emerge of late on the anti-folk sphere, Charles Latham chastises Dylan's alleged hypocrisy while lambasting social ills from boys with libidos swinging too much to the soul-sucking sycophancy of looking for a job. But Latham balances lashes with laughs, songs about his own underwhelming sexuality and confidence as funny as they are endearing. Charles Latham could be your new hero. 8:30 p.m. --GC
45min-1hour sets of original songs.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.