Popular Problems

Popular Problems

The Canadian poet and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen teamed up with producer Patrick Leonard, a man who’s previously handled the more limber rhythms of Madonna. Together, they made a soothing yet adventurous album: Cohen’s 13th studio release, Popular Problems. “Nevermind” coasts on a pulsing synth-led beat while the expected female vocal choir unexpectedly turns to an Arabic chant for peace (“salaam”). “My Oh My” adds a touch of horns. But while this expands the musical portion of Cohen’s efforts, the focus here is still on his rumbling voice (which sounds like he’s met Moses) and his lyrics (which never settle for passable when transcendent is still within reach). Cohen claims “Born in Chains” took 40 years to get right. On the opening track, Cohen turns the joke on himself. “Slow,” he admits, is how he likes most things, as if his fans hadn’t noticed. Getting it right is more important than rushing to keep pace. “A Street” turns its attention to 9/11 with a poignancy that resonates 13 years after that horrible day, with a lingering ache guiding Cohen’s continued eloquence and honesty.

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