Leonard Cohen

Popular Problems

Octogenarian maestro Leonard Cohen returns with his transcendent 13th studio album Popular Problems. Although it consists of mostly new blues, bluegrass, and ballad-based material, several of the tracks have appeared in earlier iterations in past live performances (“Born in Chains” and “My Oh My”) or as published poems in The New Yorker magazine (“A Street”) and Cohen’s Book of Longing (“Nevermind”). Additionally, Québec producer Patrick Leonard cowrote the majority of these full-bodied songs with Cohen — many of which feature those familiar female-sung choruses. “Slow” starts things off right with a lethargic boogie-woogie beat as Cohen proves he’s still a lady-killer. “All your moves are swift / All your turns are tight / Let me catch my breath / I thought we had all night / I like to take my time / I like to linger as it flies / A weekend on your lips / A lifetime in your eyes,” he intones. On the exquisite “Almost Like the Blues,” Cohen’s self-referential wry humor shines through as he sings, “So I let my heart get frozen / To keep away the rot / My father said I’m chosen / My mother said I’m not / I listened to their story / Of the Gypsies and the Jews / It was good; it wasn’t boring / It was almost like the blues.” The dirge-like “Samson in New Orleans” finds Cohen channeling Tom Waits as his gravelly baritone sermonizes, “The king so kind and solemn / He wears a bloody crown / So stand me by that column / Let me take this temple down,” as a catharsis to one of America’s worst tragedies. The sublime “A Street” includes the cryptically dystopian lyrics: “I see the Ghost of Culture / With numbers on his wrist / Salute some new conclusion / Which all of us have missed.” If Leonard Cohen isn’t the philosopher king/poet laureate of the human condition set to music, who is?

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