Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now
Wins Mercury Music Prize 2015 Albums Of The Year
Focus track: Cornerstone
At Least For Now, the critically acclaimed debut album by 26 year-old singer/songwriter Benjamin Clementine, has won the Mercury Music Prize 2015 ‘Albums of the Year’ over artists such as Jamie XX and Florence and the Machine.
Released digitally in Australia Oct 22, At Least For Now has been described as a “remarkable, beyond-categorisation debut album – genuinely heart-wrenching” (Sunday Times), “a masterpiece” (Independent On Sunday) and Clementine “an extraordinary new musical talent. Incredible” (Evening Standard). The album has led to Clementine selling out five headline shows in London, including most recently David Bryne’s Meltdown Festival, and radio support from the likes of Julie Adenuga, Lauren Laverne, Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens. Overseas, Clementine has received “Best New Act” honours at Les Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent of the Grammys, alongside sold-out shows across Europe and the US.
Clementine has packed a lot into his 26 years: heartbreak, homelessness, reinvention, reaching cult status in Paris, before returning home in unlikely circumstances to make his UK live debut on Later…With Jools Holland, since described by the BBC as “one of the greatest Jools moments of any era.” Raised in London’s Edmonton, his household was a strictly religious one, where children were barred from the living room unless it was a weekend dinner. When Benjamin started to teach himself the keyboard aged 11, he stumbled upon classical radio rather than contemporary pop; a sparse piano solo by Erik Satie in particular transformed the way he played. At 16 years old, in a rare moment of permitted TV watching, he caught New York avant-gardists Antony and the Johnsons performing the disarmingly naked ‘Hope There’s Someone’ on the BBC. “I was confused, scared…it was another world,” says Clementine. Further inspired by figures like Leonard Cohen and Jake Thackray – and with no emotional or employment ties to keep him in London – Benjamin absconded to Paris aged 20; sleeping rough, working in kitchens and busking out of economic necessity. This tale of two cities is enshrined in the album’s key themes and artwork: blue for France and red for the UK, with Clementine caught in his ‘box of stone’ (a lyric from breakout track ‘Cornerstone’).
At Least For Now is the result of this self-education and wandering spirit. Opening track ‘Winston Churchill’s Boy’ begins with the line, “Never in the field of human affection / Had so much been given for so few attention”, paraphrasing Churchill’s legendary WWII speech to pinpoint the gulf between himself and his family, growing up. A theme of freedom also defines the ten tracks that follow, as does Benjamin’s vocal style: sometimes soulful, but occasionally breaking into the startling (the spoken word, song-within-a-song aria of ‘Adios’, befitting a visit from angels, or the manic laugh of ‘Quiver A Little’). Unfettered but equally focused, the rhythmic, string-laden ‘Nemesis’ was written after the disillusioning end of an affair, when Clementine found himself back sleeping rough on the boulevard where his girlfriend once lived, a period also covered in the rolling peals of album highlight ‘Cornerstone’.
Press for Benjamin Clementine:
“Remarkable, beyond-categorisation debut album – genuinely heart-wrenching” (Debut Album of the Week) – Sunday Times Culture
“An extraordinary musical statement startling and entirely original. A masterpiece” ***** – Independent On Sunday
“Nina Simone’s brother steps into an elegant French café, sits down at the piano and tears open a vein” – Rolling Stone
“Clementine’s debut album is by turns bold, brave, beautiful and at times quite brilliant. An exciting new talent” **** – The Observer
“Intoxicating torch songs of estrangement and passion. A powerful introduction to a compelling artists presence” **** – Mojo
“An antidote to a mediocrity that seems so pervasive with solo singers right now…. He has the magnificent phrasing of Nat King Cole, the earthy humor of Jacques Brel and a gift for random left field oddness that few artists since Scott Walker have possessed” – Noisey
“An extraordinary new musical talent. Incredible” ***** – Evening Standard
“The 24 year old marries the intimacy of Antony Hegarty with the passion of Aretha Franklin and the intensity of Edith Piath, delivering his introspective lyrics about integrity and vulnerability with an almost operative soul sensibility that recalls Nina Simone” **** – The Independent
“Anyone attending last night’s concert would have realised that Clementine has talent to burn” **** – The Daily Telegraph
“An exceptional musical outing…entirely defined by its creator’s unique vision. He may have created 2015’s most striking and bewitching album” ***** – The Arts Desk