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Popular Problems

4.7 out of 5 stars 413 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 23, 2014
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Editorial Reviews

Popular Problems is Leonard Cohen's thrilling new studio album, where he takes us down into the avenues of our dreams and sets a new tone and speed of hope and despair, grief and joy. Cohen here is an astonished lover rocking to the human condition as "the soul unfolds in the chambers of its longing." His legendary basso resonates as never before with a presence and urgency that arises from the very the depths of the heart. The clarity and strength of these nine hypnotic songs will have us singing them over and over.

Popular Problems is Cohen's 13th studio album, and will be released just two days after his 80th birthday. In collaboration with co-writer Patrick Leonard, Popular Problems is a masterpiece from the ever-fresh imagination of a musical legend whose songs continue to captivate new listeners and devoted fans. Popular Problems was produced by Patrick Leonard, mastered at Marcussen Mastering and was recorded and mixed by Jesse E. String with additional mixing by Bill Bottrell.

Leonard Cohen is a master songwriter, musician, poet, novelist and visual artist whose stunning body of original work has touched the lives of millions with a career spanning six decades. His explorations of spiritual, interpersonal, romantic and political themes have impacted countless contemporary recording artists and writers. He has sold over 23 million albums, worldwide and published 12 books, the most recent of which was 2006's 'Book of Longing', a collection of poetry, prose and drawings, which reached #1 on the Top 10 Hardcover Fiction Books in Canada.

Cohen's influence on musical and theatrical artists the world over is inestimable. In fact, when Cohen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in March 2008, the revered Lou Reed singled out Leonard as one of the "highest and most influential echelon of songwriters." Cohen's songbook has been covered by hundreds of recording artists including Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, Lou Reed, Tori Amos, Nick Cave, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Rufus Wainwright and the Civil Wars. Tribute albums have been released in Cohen's honor in France, Norway, Canada, Spain, Swedish, Czech Republic, South Africa and the United States. In 2008 Cohen's "Hallelujah" became the fastest-selling digital single in European history when three separate versions of the song appeared simultaneously on the UK singles chart - Cohen's own original recording, a version from Jeff Buckley and another from X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. Additionally, Leonard's songs have been frequently selected to illustrate the emotion of motion pictures and television programs and have been heard in Watchmen, The Passion of The Christ, Natural Born Killers, The Wonder Boys, Pump Up The Volume, Secretary, The West Wing, The O.C. and many others.

Leonard Cohen has been honored as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient (2010), inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (2008), the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame (2006), the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2006) and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame (2010). He has received the prestigious Principe de Asturias Prize the highest literary award in Spain (Spain, 2011) as well as the Glenn Gould Prize, awarded to an individual for a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts (Canada, 2011). The Canadian native has earned his country's highest civilian honors - Officer of the Order of Canada (1991), Companion to the Order of Canada (2003), Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec (2008).
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Digital Booklet: Popular Problems
Digital Booklet: Popular Problems
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 23, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Columbia
  • ASIN: B00MJJ37BE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (413 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,361 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The new Leonard Cohen album is only nine songs and less than 40 minutes long, but well worth it. Like all Cohen albums as of late, it's a brutally honest montage of songs, that speak to the evils of our days, and the destruction, the killing, and yet clings to the hope of a better tomorrow.
In "Almost Like the Blues", he writes "I saw some people starving, there was murder, there was rape. Their villages were burning, they were trying to escape. I couldn't meet their glances, I was staring at my shoes. It was acid, it was tragic, it was almost like the blues."
In fact much of the album is heart wrenching, and you get the feeling that Mr. Cohen is trying to get us to see the darkness of our own hearts by exposing his own. With lines like: "So let my heart be frozen to keep away the rot", and "...gather up the killers, get everyone in town. Stand me by those pillars, let me take this temple down." it would seem as if Cohen is not only exposing the darkness but taking a stand against it.
The album concludes with a simple song called "You Got Me Singing" in which he writes: "You got me singing, even tho’ the news is bad. You got me singing the only song I ever had
You got me singing ever since the river died, you got me thinking of the places we could hide.
You got me singing even though the world is gone, you got me thinking I’d like to carry on.
You got me singing even tho’ it all looks grim, you got me singing the Hallelujah hymn."
The whole human story is one about redemption, and this theme is on display throughout "Popular Problems"...which makes it a fantastic album, not to be missed.
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Format: Audio CD
Leonard Cohen is 80.

“Popular Problems” is his 15th collection of original songs.

It’s tempting, given those facts, to think that he’s slowing down.

That would be wrong — Cohen has never been fast.

The refusal to speed — the pathological unwillingness to write a song that rips you out of your chair — is the through-line of Cohen’s career. He says so himself, in “Slow,” the first song on the new CD:

"I’ll get there when I do
Don’t need no starting gun
It’s not because I’m old
And it’s not what dying does
I always liked it slow
Slow is in my blood."

Slow, as in sex. Slow, as in speech. Slow, as in graceful movement and calculated expression. Slow, as in philosophy: nowhere to go, no hurry to get there.

“When you’re chasing buzz,” someone said of Tina Brown, “you’re always behind.” Cohen, timeless, was generally ahead of his time. And now time has caught up to him — he’s right on time. On our time, which begs us to jump off the hamster wheel, think, look and breathe. Our time, which begs us to recover our selves. Time, the ultimate popular problem.

From the beginning, Cohen focused on creativity rather than career. He knew what he had to work with, and he played to his strengths. Or, rather, as I explained in a New York Times piece a few years ago about "Old Ideas", he played to his weaknesses: "His range as a composer is limited; as he has noted, 'People said I knew three chords when I knew five'” His vocal range is even more limited. A fan got it exactly right when he said, 'No one can sing a Leonard Cohen song the way Cohen himself can’t.' The dirge-like songs and midnight voice that result are an easy target for reviewers. He’s 'the poet laureate of pessimism.
Read more ›
11 Comments 99 of 107 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
Leonard Cohen's new album "Popular Problems" is produced by Patrick Leonard who provides a lean yet rich sound. Aged 80, his voice is gravely and weathered but still laden with nuance and emotion. Comprising 9 songs that display his lyrical deftness, it comes just 2 years after his 12th album "Old Ideas", a very speedy follow up when measured in Cohen time. The Bluesy "Slow" opens the album contemplating his mortality. "Almost Like The Blues" marries soothing harmonies and tinkling ivories to a gently lilting groove. "There's torture and there's killing, and there's all my bad reviews" he rumbles.

The hymnal "Samson In New Orleans" is a look at the effects Hurricane Katrina. "And we who cried for mercy from the bottom of the pit, was out prayer so damn unworthy that the Son rejected it?" The mysterious "A Street" is a solemn affair occasionally sprinkled with horns ("The party's over, but I've landed on my feet"), while the Country-tinged "Did I Ever Love You" alternates between gentle and bouncy, a pleasant change in pace. "My Oh My" is absolutely beautiful with funky horn accents.

"Nevermind" sets his ominous narration to a groovy bassline and gently throbbing beats with some female singing intermittently in what sounds like Arabic. "Born In Chains" is a hymnal shuffle laden in Biblical imagery. Closing is "You Got Me Singing", "You got me singing, even though the news is bad" he sings as though the weight of the world is on his shoulders, even referencing that "Hallelujah hymn". Let's hope he keeps on being this prolific and great.
3 Comments 48 of 51 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
WOW! I've been a Cohen fan since the earliest 70's; perhaps devotee would be more applicable. Okay, that's established. I never expected another album so quickly- for all intents and purposes virtually on the heels (for Leonard) of Old Ideas. The guy is 80. I get that, however what I didn't expect was an album of this caliber. Admittedly he is sharing literary credit with another on virtually all the songs, although that being an aside in my opinion, the songs are powerfully delivered. I found myself inadvertently hearkening back to earlier works; I'm talking, Songs of Love and Hate, perhaps even New Skin... or the later Ten New Songs caliber. Nothing wrong with revisiting what works. His voice is really going. Got that. Who's isn't at 80 and after what he did to his lungs with decades of smoking, etc. I'd be surprised if it weren't. Yup, got it. But he USES his voice effectively and his delivery is sincere, impassioned, almost as if saying, "I trying to share this with you in the only way I can, be tolerant and's important to me that you listen to this." The only clunker- in my useless opinion- is Born in Chains. I gave it two listens and couldn't get through a third. But in my meager opinion this is the ONLY detriment and I'm sure there will be those who love the aspects portrayed therein. His backup singers do not carry him- as has been written in the past- rather they enhance; they come in to harmonize, not save him embarrassment because his voice is stretching. I can't stress it enough- the stretching, I believe is intentional and it works. Okay, enough said. Hopefully this helps. I feel redeemed. Dear Heather, two albums ago, went into the trash after a fair 4 listens and almost throwing up throughout- the ONLY Cohen album NOT in my music library. Get This...
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