Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems

leonard cohen popular problems

At the age of 80, Leonard Cohen has created a masterpiece. It’s a smoky, late-night concoction delivered with a deceptively light touch that masks deep seriousness.
~Neil McCormick (The Telegraph)

There’s only been one other album this year that’s hit me this hard in the gut: Rosanne Cash’s “The River & The Thread”.

Cohen’s recent album feels like a masterpiece, but I’ve only listened to it for two weeks. It needs to sink in, and by the end of the year (end year lists) we’ll see how it holds up. But for now.. Holy shit! This is wonderful music, must be his best since the brilliant “The Future” (1992).

My Favorite songs so far: Did I ever Love You, Almost Like The Blues, My Oh My,  & Slow.

The lemon trees blossom
The almond trees whither
It’s Spring and it’s Summer
And it’s Winter forever

Did I ever love you
Does it really matter
Did I ever fight you
You don’t need to answer

Did I Ever Love You:

I have to die a little
between each murderous plot
and when I’m finished thinking
I have to die a lot

There’s torture, and there’s killing
and there’s all my bad reviews
The war, the children missing, lord
It’s almost like the blues
It’s almost like the blues

Almost Like The Blues:


Released 19/22 September 2014
Genre Folk, pop, blues
Length 35.56
Label Columbia
Producer Patrick Leonard

Most of the songs were new, though Cohen did debut “Born In Chains” onstage in 2010 and “My Oh My” was played during a soundcheck the same year.

The 2010 version of “Born In Chains” differs radically in terms of arrangements and singing compared to the 2014 studio version, and the song itself was first performed as early as 1985, during (unofficially recorded) soundcheck in Europe. The early version used earlier lyrics set to the music which later become the song “I Can’t Forget”, released on Cohen’s 1988 record I’m Your Man. Through the years, Cohen referred to the song as “Taken Out of Egypt”, reciting it on show in 1988, and humming it to the new melody in 2005 documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.

“A Street” was recited by Cohen in 2006, during promotion of his book of poetry Book of Longing, and later printed twice, as “A Street” in March 2, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine, and as “Party’s Over” in Everyman’s Library edition of Cohen’s Poems and Songs in 2011. Both version included a verse referring to 9/11.

“Nevermind” was published as the poem in 2005 on The Leonard Cohen Files website, and in Book of Longing in 2006.

Leonard Cohen


Everything here — keys, female backing chorus, acoustic instrumentation, etc. — is in their service. As always, Cohen’s songs — delivered in his deepest earth rasp — offer protagonists who are ambivalent spiritual seekers, lusty, commitment-phobic lovers, and jaded, untrusting/untrustworthy world citizens. He is them, they are him: strangers hiding in plain sight.
~Thom Jurek (allmusic.com)


Drove you to the station
Never asked you why
Drove you to the station
Never asked you why
Held you for a little while
My Oh My Oh My

All the boys are waving
Trying to catch your eye
All the boys are waving
Trying to catch your eye
Held you for a little while
My Oh My Oh My

My Oh My:

To say that Popular Problems is a great album for a guy his age is to do it a disservice. It is precisely because Leonard Cohen is the age he is that Popular Problems is so good. Like Walt Whitman, or Tu Fu or Ryokan before him, Cohen’s work has continued to improve as he’s aged. Popular Problems is a mature work that could only be created after a lifetime spent in art, at a point when the search for the “holy” and the “beautiful” have been reconciled with human frailty. It’s an album in which the artist acknowledges the appreciation his work has received and the good fortune that has been bestowed on him.
~Douglas Heselgrave (pastemagazine.com)

I’m lacing up my shoe
But I don’t want to run
I’ll get here when I do
Don’t need no starting gun

It’s not because I’m old
It’s not what dying does
I always liked it slow
Slow is in my blood


Track Listing:

  1. “Slow” – 3.25
  2. “Almost Like the Blues” – 3.28
  3. “Samson in New Orleans” – 4.39
  4. “A Street” (Cohen, Anjani Thomas) – 3.32
  5. “Did I Ever Love You” – 4.10
  6. “My Oh My” – 3.36
  7. “Nevermind” – 4.39
  8. “Born in Chains” (Cohen) – 4.55
  9. “You Got Me Singing” – 3.31

Full album – youtube:

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4 thoughts on “Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems”

  1. Nice appreciation of Leonard and I love the Rosanne and thought both were contenders for my personal album of the year until I heard the new Lucinda Williams double album—do check it out, you will be rewarded.

      1. Funny you mentioned “Something wicked….” cause 2 months ago Lu and her band gave us a sneak preview of new 2 cd set inc that song and I turned to my friends and said ” that’s a real tony joe white groove” and repeated the observation to Lu after the show and she says “Tony plays on that song, Joe”……I will admit to be a friend of Lu but hers is my unbiased new favorite for personal album of year….twice I have been back stage with Leonard Cohen, last time in DC in 1994 when the concert ended a most beautiful woman stood up in the row behind me, straightened up her Embassy Row -worthy dress, and said,”Well that was better than most sex I ‘ve had in my life”. When I went backstage, Cohen’s daughter had brought her college friends, the band Fugazi, and we had a very nice timem with Leonard serving us wine and chees and popcorn—he laughed heartily at the womans review…..Joe Compton ps I have made a feature docu film on new Orleans gospel music :By and By-New Orleans Gospel at the Crossroads” which has made it into 11 festivals—would you be interested in viewing it???

        1. Thanks for another great comment Joe. Great stories & I’m sure Lucinda Williams’s latest will be a hot contender for album of the year here at alldylan.com. You’re film sounds interesting.. I’ve put it on my “Films to check out” list.

          Hallgeir (the other guy @ alldylan.com) is the film buff here.. I think he’ll be very interested 🙂

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