About Jim Clements
Every five years or so, Jim Clements emerges to drop a collection of literate, witty, surreal, gut-wrenching songs, before disappearing again into the shadows. A songwriter’s songwriter in the tradition of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave, his songs have earned him critical acclaim and a devoted following over his fifteen-year career.
His new album, A Failure, moves away from the bittersweet country romanticism of his previous record towards a starker, more intimate, and lyrically-dense reflection on middle-age, anxiety, fatherhood, regret, and, yes, failure. In the spirit of Cave and Cohen, Clements maintains his dark humor in the face of the bleak subject matter, offering an unflinching but weirdly comforting perspective on life’s inevitable disappointments.
Clement’s career began with Kill Devil Hills, written and recorded in 2004 in Toronto, Canada on the Fading Ways label. This lushly-produced album, which received comparisons to Wilco, Elvis Costello, and Neil Young, featured songs about apocalyptic floods, earth-shaking angels, adultery, murder, and revenge. It earned its way onto several best-of-year lists in Canada, establishing him as a singer-songwriter to watch.
"The odds of actually making it to Neil Young proportions are ridiculously slim, but if a bet had to be placed, Clements would be a top choice."
Kill Devil Hills was followed in 2008 by When the Saints Go, recorded in London, England with his band, The Right to Die. This lo-fi concept album, recorded in one drunken weekend, features messy, black-humored songs about visions, sinners, and saints, alongside Clements’s trademark bleak love ballads. The ramshackle live band became a fixture on the UK’s gigging circuit, and enjoyed a popular residency at Brixton’s Windmill.
"His masterful songwriting ability is vital in setting him apart from the alt-country scene. In the vein of great Memphis blues men such as Franky Stokes and Sleepy John Estes, Clements will make you fall to your knees and thank the Good Lord that it wasn’t you who had to endure the heartache and misery the man that wrote this song did. I rank Jim Clements among some of the finest practitioners of the song writing craft."
Just as the band was hitting its stride with a sell-out CD release party at London’s Borderline in 2009, they were struck by a series of misfortunes, and Clements moved to the Middle East to begin his forty-days-and-nights in the desert. Here, he began to pen the more mature and reflective songs that would come to comprise his third album, The Road to Anhedonia. This reverb-soaked, rootsy breakup album, recorded in Vancouver in 2011, showed a more direct, mature side of Clements, earning him comparisons to Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons, and Richard Hawley.
"Clements has a knack for the kind of deeply black humoured lyrics you can return to year after year and still wonder about, drawing amazingly vivid scenes yet leaving enough details to the imagination to leave you asking after his characters."
Now, Clements has returned with his fourth (and first self-produced) album, A Failure, written in fits and starts as he slowly began his half-decade-long journey back to real life in North America. During these between-times, Clements had been composing with no audience in mind (and no intention of releasing the material) for the first time since his teenage years. Eventually, after rediscovering his footing in Los Angeles, he began to slowly assemble an album in his new home, with the help of musician-friends in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Iowa City. The result is A Failure, Clements’s strangest and most complex album to date.
Reviews of Kill Devil Hills
What is going on in Canada? Clements is yet another one off the production line of exceptional talent being turned out with monotonous regularity from Canada these days. On first listen, the baby faced troubadour comes across as a Costello/Chris Mills type song writer who's voice has a peculiar (thus engagingly distinctive) English clipped style about it - but lyrically he has a real sting in his tale.
From: Americana UK Magazine
Toronto-based artist Jim Clements is another in a long line of fresh-faced Canadian singer/songwriters waiting for their debut album to make them the next Neil Young. Much more so than others Clements has got a heck of a shot, his voice warbling above the strains of violin and carefully picked acoustic guitar setting him apart. Sitting in the vein of alt.country, Kill Devil Hills presents Clements as a thoughtful, extremely talented lyricist. Not as edgy as a Patrick Wolf but much darker than your run-of-the-mill Nick Drake knockoff, Clements mixes beautiful melodies with stories about killing a potential lover's current boyfriend, and the oddly haunting tale of lost youth found in "Wendy Darling" (of Peter Pan fame, get it?).
Out-Of-Nowhere Award: a debut record called Kill Devil Hills on Fading Ways Records. It has the heart and soul of all those old country records, but it's super-catchy and folky and front porchy - part "Broken and Blue" by the Fembots, part Crazy Horse guitar, part Will Oldham voice, part absolutely fucking heartbreaking slide guitar. Worth your time and your dime.
From: CHMA Best of Year list
Clements shows himself a talented songwriter, and Kill Devil Hills is chock-full of beautiful ballads…. Like [Wilco’s] Jeff Tweedy, Jim Clements has a way of making darkness beautiful…. Expect good things from him.
Reviews of When The Saints Go
'When The Saints Go' is a superbly composed and stunningly executed album. Clements & Co seem to be able to portray the darkness but make it feel nothing less than acceptably vibrant, through a mixture of great, mature writing and sensitively understated but passionately expressive playing. The end result is genuinely brilliant. 'When The Saints Go' by Jim Clements & The Right To Die is simply superb - refreshing and innovative - quality from conception to delivery - nothing short of brilliant!!
From: Toxic Pete
An inventive lyrical experience, which easily stands-up to its influences. Lovers of Cave, Wilco etc will not be disappointed. an inventive lyrical experience, which easily stands-up to its influences. Lovers of Cave, Wilco etc will not be disappointed.
From: DIY Magazine
Reviews of The Road To Anhedonia
A writer with a rare lightness of touch and sense of humour, he’s got under his belt a couple of albums of clever, twisted-under-the-surface country-rock compositions that at their peak are a match for anyone. Musically these are probably Clements’ strongest efforts yet, often conjuring a real early-hours atmosphere.
The Road to Anhedonia flawlessly jumps between the kind of folky sounds that make you want to pull out your fall sweaters while drinking a dark heavy beer and the kind of indie pop that Cameron Crowe would get all hard and rubbery for. It is a masterful balancing act that never slips up once. The Road to Anhedonia is pretty much the perfect autumn album and Jim Clements is an amazing asshole that I just want to hug and say thank you to for making something so god damn beautiful.
From: SYFFAL (Best of 2012 list)
“The Road to Anhedonia” contains some beautiful songs, with finely crafted lyrics that tell tales of love and loss. Within the grooves there are traces of Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Neil Young, but these are mere references and Jim has a warm rich honest voice of his own, something that gives the songs a charm all their own. An album that could become a fireside favourite.