WHO IS HE? Field Commander Cohen. Your man. A ladies man — hell, THE ladies’ man. Not to mention the Buddhist who dressed like one of The Blues Brothers. The folk-poet laureate of Montreal. And the singer-songwriter who parlayed his former manager’s egregious embezzlement into one of the most celebrated and successful involuntary comebacks in music.
WHAT IS THIS? The golden-voiced master’s stunning 15th studio album and first posthumous release, featuring leftover vocal “sketches” that have been fleshed out into exquisite songs by son Adam Cohen and a VIP cast including Beck, Jennifer Warnes, Damien Rice, Leslie Feist and longtime sideman Javier Mas.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Far more coherent, consistent and complete than you might have thought. Or not. As the younger Cohen explains, he and his father had discussed these songs before Leonard died in 2016. Cohen’s penchant for simple melodies, sparse arrangements, sombre moods and repetitive lyrics surely didn’t hurt either. But even so, unless you knew the backstory, you could very easily assume these were fully finished tracks he left behind.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Afterlife of a Ladies Man.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? Same way you listen to every Cohen album — while relaxed at night, with the lights dimmed and a glass of something intoxicating close at hand.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Transfixing, understated, tasteful, poetic, evocative, sensual, romantic, reflective, melancholy, wry.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? You can’t go wrong with any of the nine tracks, but the gorgeously dark opener Happens to the Heart (His first rumbled words: “I was always working steady, but I never called it art”), the waltzing title cut, the Latin-tinged Night of Santiago and the smouldering gospel-soul ballad The Hills are all magnificent. Be careful with the Holocaust-themed Puppets, though; it’s a weeper.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘The only downside is that the whole album lasts less than 30 minutes. Does that mean this is it — or that they’re stretching out the leftovers into more than one release?’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? At least as frequently as any of his other post-comeback albums.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A BOOK, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A posthumous novel finished by another author — which thankfully turns out to be an acclaimed best-seller.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Even though it’s just this side of an EP, it’s still worth full price.