Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016) [AcousticSounds 24-44,1]

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 36:13 minutes | 366 MB | Genre: Rock, Pop
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: AcousticSounds | Artwork: Front cover | © Columbia

Leonard Cohen, the acclaimed composer of “Hallelujah”, continues to astonish his audience. At age 82, he presents his uncompromising and urgent new album, You Want It Darker. Described by early listeners as a “masterpiece” and “classic Cohen,” You Want It Darker, is the latest chapter in Leonard’s significant contribution to contemporary music and thought. These startling songs have been beautifully realized in this his 14th studio album featuring 9 new tracks including the title track, all produced by his son, Adam Cohen.

Given the subject matter in its title track, Leonard Cohen’s advanced age (82), it’s tempting to hear You Want It Darker as a last album. In advance of its release, he even told The New Yorker that he was ready to die, only to walk the comment back later. Whether it is or isn’t, You Want It Darker is a hell of a record. Cohen wrote these songs alone and with old friends Sharon Robinson and Patrick Leonard. Son Adam produced, stepping in while his father was suffering from a severe back injury that required him to sing from a medically designed chair.

Cohen’s sepulchral voice expresses a wealth of emotion through its grainy rasp. He remains defiant even while acknowledging failures, regrets, brokenness, and even anger. Redemption arrives, if at all, through unflinching honesty. The title track single is introduced by a choir and a foreboding bassline. Its lyric is as much an indictment of religion as a reflection, personal confession, and doubt. Cantor Gideon Y. Zelermyer engages with the sacred even as Cohen wrestles with it. For every, “Himeni, Himeni/I’m ready my Lord…” there is a counter: “…Magnified and sanctified/Be thy Holy Name/Vilified and crucified/In the human frame/A million candles burning/For the help that never came….” In the final verse he asserts: “If you are the dealer/I want out of this game,” but he’s answered by Zelermyer’s and the choir’s resolute devotion. “Treaty” recalls the melody of “Anthem” as piano, synth strings, and chorale highlight the poignancy in the lyric. Cohen equates past hopes and perceived truths with his guilt: “We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free/I’m sorry for the ghost I made you be….” “Leaving the Table” is a bittersweet country waltz where Cohen reveals things he no longer needs (even if he wishes he did), and underscores impending exit: “I don’t need a pardon/There’s no one left to blame/I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game.” The intersection of the blues, Yiddish folk, and gypsy musics on “Traveling Light” flows through bouzoukis, mandolins, and drum loops. Their union recalls the haunted musical qualities on 1984’s Various Positions.

In song after song, Cohen delivers lyric juxtapositions that settle scores with God, past lovers, and himself. He sounds like a spent Jeremiah muttering to himself and arguing with his creator in a cave rather than the biblical one transported to heaven in a fiery chariot of victory. But even after all this, Cohen can’t quite give up the ghost. The tender stringed reprise of “Treaty” closes the set with a faint – and perhaps desperate – twinge of hope: “I wish there was a treaty/between your love and mine.” Despite his long list of gripes, sins, and losses, Cohen’s instinctive opening to whatever light remains prevails on You Want It Darker. When all contradictions are nakedly exposed in truth, all one can do is embrace them and wish for the best. Brilliant.

Tracklist:
01 – You Want It Darker
02 – Treaty
03 – On the Level
04 – Leaving the Table
05 – If I Didn’t Have Your Love
06 – Traveling Light
07 – It Seemed the Better Way
08 – Steer Your Way
09 – String Reprise / Treaty

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