Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker (Sony)
There is the dimming of the day, and then there is the latest Leonard Cohen album. With a title that doesn’t ask a question but rather spells out a statement of intent, our favourite and most wry and amusing miserabilist once again looks inwards. This time (on his third studio album in five years), however, he really mines the depths of the soul.
Tellingly, he released this album on his 82nd birthday (2014’s Popular Problems was released on his 80th), so there is a clear narrative being laid out with regards to time. There is also an unusually strong personal link attached by the presence of Cohen’s son, Adam, who produces and plays guitar on several tracks.
The title track opens this glorious, if downbeat, album with something of a declaration: featuring a synagogue choir and a cantor, the song’s repeated refrain, ‘hineni’, is taken from the Book of Isaiah, and can be translated as ‘I am ready, Lord’. Further references to devils, angels, candles, fire, Jesus and miracles might overplay the religious imagery, but – as always – Cohen plays it smart with the words, which feature some of the best lyrics of his career.
Quotable lines – wise, witty, and the rest – are in abundance here, and they are, crucially, matched with one of the most recognisable voices in contemporary music. Now acutely developed with age,0. Whether You Want It Darker will, indeed, be Cohen’s final album is a moot point. That it is his latter-day masterpiece is indisputable. As for wanting it darker? Not yet, Leonard, not yet.
Planxty, Between The Jigs And The Reels (Universal Music Ireland)
This is not a new album, alas, but a retrospective of the trad legends’ 1970s and 1980s heyday. Much like the Gloaming are doing now, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine and Liam O’Flynn reshaped traditional Irish music for a whole new audience. They reinvented traditional ballads like Follow Me Up To Carlow or The Well Below The Valley, belted out traditional tunes on bouzouki, bodhrán and uilleann pipes and highlighted the similarities between Irish trad and Balkan folk (Mominsko Horo, Smecano Horo). Like any compilation, you can debate the omissions, and this listener would have included the wonderful title track from their third album, Cold Blow And The Rainy Night, or The Starting Gate. However, the quality of Planxty’s recorded output was so uniformly high that they could have chosen pretty much anything from their six studio albums. A wonderful introduction to a stellar band.
Rating: 4 ½/5
Download: Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór
Two Door Cinema Club, Gameshow (Warner Music)
The third album from Bangor three-piece Two Door Cinema Club is quite a departure from their 2010 debut, Tourist History, and 2012’s Beacon. Largely eschewing the frantic electro-punk of their past, Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird have embraced the funk. Just 30 seconds into opening track, Are We Ready? (Wreck), the ‘na na na’ backing vocals and mid-paced bass groove suggest a new direction. The next 45 minutes see the trio taking the listener on a musical journey that encompasses Hot Chip-esque electro (Ordinary, Lavender), Prince-loving funk (Surgery) and sunny soul grooves (Fever). Recorded in Los Angeles with Jacknife Lee behind the production desk, Two Door Cinema Club Version 2.0 is a poppier and tamer animal than its predecessor, but one that’s worth getting to know.
Download: Bad Decisions