I beg to differ, at least partially.
Although there are certainly some aspects of continuation from Dear Heather
to Old Ideas
, there are also substantial differences.
On the musical side, yes, you may have a point, there is a lot of programmed music in both, but there is a little more “live” music on OI, including one track with the band (I wish there were more!). However, like Ten New Songs
before it, DH was produced and arranged by Sharon Robinson and Leanne Ungar, and both have specific characters; OI is much more varied in that respect, with various studios and several people involved, including Patrick Leonard (whose music is the weakest side of the album, unfortunately; the more I listen to it, the more dissatisfied I am with his tracks). Of course, LC must have had the last say in everything, but still, you can feel that many people had their hands in it.
More importantly, as far as the lyrics are concerned this is quite a different album than the previous one. DH was like a basket full of various kinds of fruits. Exceptionally for LC, it included lyrics by other poets to which he wrote the music (“Go No More A-Roving” by Byron, “Villanelle For Our Time” by Frank Scott), a song “based on a Quebec folk song” (“The Faith”), as well as one non-Cohen song (“Tennessee Waltz”). There are tracks that felt like an “experiment” or a “joke” without much substance (“Morning Glory”, “Dear Heather” and perhaps also “Because Of”), a recitation of a poem without much music (“To A Teacher”), a comment on current events (“On That Day”), an atypical sweet little song with Anjani (“Nightingale”), and two or three songs that are more typical LC (“The Letters”, “There For You”, and “Undertow”, which is very short). OI, on the other hand, has 10 songs all with lyrics by LC, most of them very typical and dealing with the familiar themes of spirituality, sexuality, suffering and the artist’s calling; I have expended on these themes in another thread:viewtopic.php?f=55&t=31398
So, thematically this album goes back to TNS and earlier albums, including several substantial songs that could become LC standards. No track from DH was ever performed on the recent long tour (that doesn’t make the album unsubstantial in my mind; on the contrary, it has its own value, but in a different way; I think LC put into it different odds and ends that reflect his whole career, from the young poet in Montreal and from his roots in Country music, up to his old age, and he speaks in it very personally to those who followed him throughout the years). OI, on the other hand, has several tracks we can expect to be performed in future concerts (some were already performed), perhaps even the whole album.
So, although musically this album represents no major breakthrough compared with the previous one or two, it is still a very different album than DH, and in its poetry closer to TNS.