The future sound of London” – Evening Standard
“Sombre piano balladry that goes straight for the gut” – DIY Magazine
“yearning vocals and trembling piano” – Q
Many fine things have emerged from Crystal Palace, South East London, my childhood urban playground and local town to my family home.
- A football team with a cracking little ground and fiercely loyal fans
- A huge, great verdant park with dinosaurs, a National Sports Centre and a maze, oh my
- Domali, a cool café serving white hot chocolate and the legendary hangover slayer that is 'BCM' - Beans, Cheese, Marmite on door stop toast.
- A Festival, a Food Market, and some cracking great pubs.
To name but a few. Crystal Palace is having a moment thanks in part to a wallop of gentrification and a fantastic community, and long may it continue.
So I was very pleased to read Rosamund Urwin's recent feature in the Evening Standard 'The Fourteen for 2014' and see Crystal Palace-born musician Benjamin Clementine take pride of place at No. 10. I was intrigued, I had to find out more - just who was this talented young man and what did his music sound like?
This is what I discovered, and heard.
Benjamin Clementine left Edmonton, North London at the age of 20 years old to move to Paris and his apologue is the stuff that modern dreams are made of. Reports cite that he subsequently fell out with his family, when his money ran out he slept rough and then he began a capella busking inside the Metro at Place de Clichy station.
For the next two years he performed daily to numerous lucky Parisian commuters, and made enough money to seek lodgings in a hostel, followed by a room of his own. Now, at the age of 25 years old, Benjamin is bringing his talents and musical offering back to London; his native home, and if from what we've heard so far is anything to go by; well, lucky us.
His voice is deep and soulful, his lyrics poetic and melancholic. You can only imagine how it must have felt to listen to that voice live as you went about your daily commute, as simply listening on Spotify is impactful enough.
Cornerstone is the title track from Benjamin's debut EP of the same name, available now to buy on iTunes but has an official UK release in January 2014. It contains three beautiful songs - Cornerstone, I Won't Complain and London and all worth a listen.
His live gigs are said to be informal, close up and raw. He delivered a memorable performance on Later… with Jools Holland in October 2013 and impressed host Sir Paul McCartney, before two sold-out debut headline London shows at The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre in December 2013.
I wish Benjamin the best of luck and hope 2014 is his year.