Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two Best of 2016



 
10. Leonard Cohen
You Want It Darker
(Columbia)

In a week when we were already reeling from Trump's baffling, ominous win in the American election, we lost Leonard Cohen, our Montreal poet-navigator of the human heart. Whose words could better help us cry and hug one another? Wrench our hearts open that much further so that we could more deeply love and mourn? So that we could, frankly, more deeply appreciate living?
 
Like David Bowie, Cohen left a farewell album to help himself — and us — prepare. On You Want It Darker, Cohen talks about death and dying, spirituality and religion in language anyone can understand, relating the ultimate unburdening of earthly things at the end of life to the light, unencumbered way we travel in our youth (on "Traveling Light").
 
Miraculously, even though he is sick at home and dying as he is recording these vocal parts, he still sounds vital as a singer. And unlike some other recent synth-heavy Leonard Cohen albums, You Want It Darker strikes a balance: it gets a good part of its musical strength from solemn, stately strings, warm acoustic instruments (the return of classical guitar) and chanting from the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir in Montreal. It's powerful, spiritual, moving stuff that still manages to be poppy. 
Sarah Greene