Leonard Cohen celebrated his 82nd birthday Wednesday with the announcement that his upcoming LP, You Want It Darker, will arrive on October 21st. The veteran musician released the mesmerizing title track, which, according to a press release, “delves into an unflinching exploration of the religious mind.”
Cohen’s sparse, spoken-word delivery is paired with Montreal’s Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir with chilling effect. “They’re lining up the prisoners and the guards are taking aim,” Cohen says. “I struggled with some demons/They were middle class and tame/I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim/You want it darker/I’m ready my lord.”
It’s unclear if You Want It Darker – produced by Cohen’s 44-year-old son Adam Cohen – will be supported with a tour. After a two-decade absence from the stage, Cohen played over 370 shows between 2008 and 2013. He hasn’t performed in public since a show at Auckland, New Zealand’s Vector Arena on December 21st, 2013 and didn’t support 2014’s Popular Problems with any live work.
He’s rarely seen in public these days, though his farewell letter to muse Marianne Ihlen did become public last month. “We are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon,” he wrote. “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”
A press release announcing the release date of You Want It Darker provides a description of each song on the album.
1. “You Want It Darker”
Hypnotic groove. The surprise of a great synagogue choir. An unflinching exploration of the religious mind.
“Didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.”
One of Cohen’s signature melodies. A confession of the selfishness of love and the hope of a correction.
“Only one of us was real—and that was me.”
3. “On the Level”
An old man’s take on desire.
“I was fighting with temptation, but I didn’t want to win”
4. “Leaving the Table”
A slow, relentless, and somehow joyous ballad of letting it all go by. A guitar solo you will remember.
“I’m leaving the table, I’m out of the game.”
5. “If I Didn’t Have Your Love”
A classic Cohen love song: the deep gratitude felt by one heart opening to another.
“That’s how broken it would be,
what the world would seem to me,
if I didn’t have your love to make it real.”
6. “Traveling Light”
A seeker hits the road and finds the joys of solitude.
“I’m traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star”
7. “It Seemed the Better Way”
The feeling of a prayer that’s been there forever, but the spiritual comforts of the past no longer available.
“Lift this glass of blood, try to say the grace.”
8. “Steer Your Way”
A song of courage as the heart moves into the darkness.
“Steer your heart past the pain that is far more real than you.”
9. String Reprise/Treaty
A brilliant reimagining of “Treaty” as a string quartet; a truly glorious moment ending with a few words from Leonard himself.
“I wish there was a treaty we could sign.”
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Leonard Cohen announces haunting new album You Want It Darker.