Saturday, 17 December 2016

You Want It Darker - Leonard Cohen

Throughout 2016 Leonard Cohen was a constant person mentioned as “The next to die.” We heard it early in the year as the person who’ll follow Bowie, we heard it when his muse Marianne died, and we heard it when he told the press he was willing to die.

Then out of nowhere he told the press Bob Dylan’s win of the Nobel Prize for Literature had given him reason to live, within weeks he released a album to great acclaim, and people talked of how great Leonard Cohen is. Then he died.

Much like David Bowie he died in what could be described as a complete surprise, and just like Bowie his death took over the morbid media narrative, and just like Bowie his death elevated his album in the eyes of the public.

Another common feature between Bowie’s Blackstar and Cohen’s You Want It Darker is that they both are aware of their mortality, and in almost each song you can feel how the artists’ mortality shaped it.

The album artwork of the Fourteenth studio album of the Canadian artist. 

You Want It Darker can’t compare to the strongest albums in Cohen’s catalogue, it doesn’t have the perfection of Songs of Leonard Cohen, and it doesn’t have the experimental nature of I’m Your Man.

What does set the album apart is it’s dark dalliance with mortality, which informs each song and might make this the most somber album of the most somber music artists of all time.

The songs of the album are with exception generally sturdy, there are no moments that lose the flow of the narrative and there are no moments where you can particularly hate any of the songs, however there are two weak songs on the album, Travelling Light and It Seemed The Better Way.

The obvious highlight of the album is the title track which is a dark as expected from Cohen and is probably the only song on the album which could fit in a ‘best of’ album of Cohen’s work.

However that does not make the rest of the songs poor, songs like Treaty and If I Didn’t Have Your Love are truly wonderful songs, and the rest of the songs aren’t poor either.

Cohen passed at the age of 82 on November 7th (Photo Credit: Graeme Mitchell)

Ultimately the greatest issue with the album is that it’s fallen victim to the media’s morbid obsession with the releases of recently deceased artists. The album is Cohen’s best since 1988 but that does not make it necessarily one of the best albums of 2016.

It’s a wonderful listen in tribute to the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians, but it is also still an album which simply has a lot of fine songs, it isn’t an album of perfect songs, which an album, which is supposed to be one of the best of 2016, should be.