With a career that has spanned nearly four decades, Leonard Cohen released his twelfth studio album, Old Ideas, earlier this year and reached his highest ever charting position in the United States.
He always found an audience before, mostly among—freaks, weirdos and fringe-art lovers—yet somehow Old Ideas managed to hit No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard charts, and even charted in eight other countries, including Finland, where at 77, Cohen earned the dubious distinction of being the oldest person to ever to make it on the Finnish charts. He finds an audience in San Jose on November 7 at HP Pavilion.
While Old Ideas is a good album, it’s not necessarily his best work. But then again, all his albums, however infrequent, are remarkably similar, especially since the mid-80s, when his vocals became more spoken than sung and the music tended towards light, minimalistic synthesized jazz. With each successive album Cohen steadily lost more of his voice, until Old Ideas, where it is barely a skeleton of its former self. This somehow makes each utterance that much more profound.
Old Ideas also has a greater amount of organic instrumentation than Cohen has used in a while, which does little to change the music since the words have always been more important in a Cohen song than the music underneath it.
Though it does emphasize what a gruff narrator he’s become. It’s like listening to a wise old man, sitting quietly in a smoke-filled bar with a lot to say and few words to say it in. Cohen is covering the same topics he has for years—love, betrayal, redemption, desire—but now he’s been around the block and really knows what he’s talking about, or at least he’s gotten better at sounding like he’s bubbling over with age old wisdom.