Leonard Cohen
You Want It Darker


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
October 29th, 2016 | 226 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: How much darker can it get?

It's probably no coincidence that You Want It Darker begins with the sound of monkish, tribal chanting – Cohen was a monk himself for a significant portion of his life – but truth be told, I'm scared to write anything about the man's life in relation to this album. It may be the near-reverence I feel when listening to pretty much any lyric he's ever written, like I've chanced upon some ancient text so far beyond priceless I shouldn't even be reading it. It may be a lack of self-confidence in the words that I write in comparison – what the hell does a 19-year-old kid know about Leonard fuckin' Cohen anyway" More likely, though, it's just the obscure nature of the man himself, who can pour so much of his life into his lyrics without ever giving away the type of man he really is. All this to say, I would love to talk about Marianne, and Cohen's years as a monk, and countless other things Cohen super-nerds pore over and dissect like a seven-part book series you have to read before the end of summer, but it would be doing a disservice to the humble simplicity of the music on display.

You Want It Darker is almost deceptively straight-forward, serving up pretty much everything Cohen fans have come to expect. There are lines he could easily have written in his 30s (you smiled at me like I was young, it took my breath away) except that the passing of time has taken the sting out of their sardonic humour and turned them towards being actually true, and it feels the more emotional for it. He seems to touch on both the Holocaust and the crucifixion of Jesus in a glancing, I-remember-this-shitty-time way, his age-ravaged voice giving the impression of a man who knows infinitely more than he could ever write in a bunch of four-minute songs. There's surely enough unreleased Cohen material to fill several Odysseys, so it may not entirely be this listener's imagination at work.

Yet the major theme of You Want It Darker is not of tragedy or loss or sorrow, but more a contented resignation. If song names like "Leaving the Table" didn't signal it already, Darker sees Cohen putting a lifetime of ghosts more or less to rest. "Traveling Light" has a nomad-esque character turning their back on love for a life of travel, while "Leaving the Table" employs a card game metaphor for love, struggle or even life itself. "Treaty" is perhaps the most heartbreaking and pivotal song, a deeply felt but still bitter apology from one side of a battlefield to another from a lover who's been fighting so long he's stopped caring who wins. The song weighs heavy with pain, but the catharsis comes not with the beautiful flurry of strings which take up most of the "String Reprise" but, as Cohen often chooses it to, in the barest and most minimalist of moments. With the simplest of piano and the barely felt thump of drums scraping against Cohen's ragged growl of a voice we hear the stripping bare of eighty years of frustration, disappointment and self-loathing; we hear the forgiveness and at least an attempt at letting go, illuminated beautifully in the way that only Leonard Cohen ever really could do. And it's beautiful.

"I'm so sorry for the ghost I made you be/only one of us was real and that was me"



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user ratings (242)
Chart.
4
excellent
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


40581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

deserved a review, thanks to futures for the proofread and fripp for nagging me into doing it

Digging: Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

JamieTwort
October 29th 2016


26988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review, Rowan.



Surprisingly I still haven't gotten around to this.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


40581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

it's very very good, Treaty might be one of my favourite Cohen songs

ShitsofRain
October 29th 2016


8094 Comments


title track is great too. album stream on his homepage

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


40581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

yeah t/t is exquisite, that choir

DoofusWainwright
October 29th 2016


20003 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review from a self confessed 19-year-old kid who know nuttin'



Pretty great album too





Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


40581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

ya gotta be honest bout it doof it's what Cohen would want

Anthracks
October 29th 2016


6214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Honestly this might be my favorite Cohen. This is the album that I relate most to lyrically from this year which is fascinating to me because he's 82 years old

Digging: Infernal Coil - Within a World Forgotten

SandwichBubble
October 29th 2016


7244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^ Best Cohen in years, at the very least

Digging: ADULT. - This Behavior

hogan900
October 29th 2016


2786 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thank god someone reviewed this, album is Grade A

Flugmorph
October 29th 2016


18939 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

inb4 skeleton tree is darker

Digging: IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance

Anthracks
October 29th 2016


6214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't think either album is particularly dark tbh but they're both very good

JigglyPDiddy
October 29th 2016


3319 Comments


You want it darker, huh? Gotta listen to this. I've only really listened to his debut, though.

Digging: Sun Kil Moon - Benji

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


17708 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

His song from True Detective was awesome

Digging: Toby Driver - They Are the Shield

ABond
October 29th 2016


305 Comments


Perhaps the greatest ever album made by a person over 80. )))

Anthracks
October 29th 2016


6214 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

traveling light is so similar to nevermind

DrJohn
October 29th 2016


1041 Comments


gave father time the birdie all right

christhjian
October 29th 2016


595 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First album by him that I checked. Liked it a lot.

NorthernSkylark
October 29th 2016


8943 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lucky you! (Srsly)

Digging: Saba - Care For Me

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2016


40581 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Loving the love here. I don't think this is above fifth best for me but it's superb anyway. And yeah Nevermind was a tune



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