Popular Problems - First Impressions

This section is dedicated to the new studio album and the Dublin concert video
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by Cate » Wed Sep 24, 2014 11:07 pm

Have finally gotten to hear the whole album - I was trying to wait to hear the whole thing at once but I have to admit to having heard a couple of the songs already.

My first impressions

Man that guys blows me away!!! I love the different sounds going on here, the richness of his voice. I also love that at 79/80 he's not afraid to mix it up. Can't wait to listen again.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by James T » Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:04 am

I think it's a fantastic album, a really greta listen as a whole piece of work. One thing, though, is that I really don't like 'Did I Ever Love You'.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by Tchocolatl » Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:38 am

Cate wrote: (...)Man that guys blows me away!!! (...)
Same feelings.

Obviously, it blows my mind! :D
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by Kush » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:36 am

This is a terrific album. I love the rhythm, melodies, beat, female voices and the overall sound. The whole package. Bits and fragments of the lyrics that have caught my attention are interesting and eventually the whole will seep into my consciousness. If I like the sound, I generally like the lyrics as well, eventually.
"However, Slow" definitely reminds me of Dylan on "Love and Theft and I could imaging him singing this song.
I agree with John E on the touch of Dylan but respectfully disagree on the song and Dylan album he mentions. 'Did I ever love You' reminds me of Dylan on the Oh Mercy album.
Especially as in 'What was it You Wanted' and 'Disease of Conceit' (Oh Mercy). He even has the Dylan-ish rasp and tone on that one, atleast to my untrained ears.
But the rest of the album is 'Cohen Standard Time' (appropriated from the Wynton Marsalis album - 'Marsalis Standard Time'). Especially as in Ten New Songs and I'm Your Man as well, I think.
It's been a good week of music with this album and the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga album.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by alb123 » Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:13 am

I didn't know that you could stream the entire album before release. That's crazy. I'm sure that has to affect sales negatively. Although, I guess in today's age, with torrenting, artists are well aware that their works are going to "get out there" one way or another. I hope the sales are strong for this album. I can't believe how many times I've listened to the entire CD from start to finish. I can't remember the last time I did this with any album. It's been a very long time...
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by Diane » Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:28 pm

I will listen to the rest of the album properly soon - there’s lots to enjoy and digest - but am temporarily stuck on You Got me Singing. Fabulous! The light and lovely melody, the vocals, the arrangement, are all enriching of the ‘voluptuously simple’ lyrics.

I hear it as a solution to the puzzle we investigated, as if a koan, in the BoM threads: Who is this you/You LC is addressing (in BoM)?? Answer: YOU (are the thing that) (has) got me singing. End of. No more shoe-polishing; wearing the shoes and singing and dancing in them.

Leonard has polished his songs so well to skip across the stage and bring us shoes like this.

I can’t locate it now, but I note what he said in one of the interviews posted here - that he sometimes has to leave something out of a song even though it sounds good, because it is not deeply true. That is what distinguishes Leonard Cohen from other highly-regarded singer-songwriters.

Let’s sing another song boys…
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by friscogrl » Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:36 pm

I have the cd in my car and have the last two songs to listen to with the last one being You"ve got me singing.
I get off work in an hour and am looking forward to hearing this song. The title of this song brings to mind Leonard"s
poem I am this thing that needs to sing.

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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by racerbear02 » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:38 pm

I have spent the last 10 days listening to the album, my first time through I was not sure at all, some good, some not good, I particularly did not like the new rendering of 'Born in Chains' compared to the version sung at Lille. I was so unsure, I did not play it the rest of the day.
However the more I have listened to it, the more I have come to like it, there are the usual hidden depths and subtleties which have really begun to add interest.

I would say that it almost is more of a melodic spoken word album, rather than being songs. That does work well given Leonard's current vocal range.

You might take a while to like the album, I know I did, but stick with it, it is truly a great piece of work :)
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by danf » Sat Sep 27, 2014 2:14 am

Does anyone have any information about the people who played/co-wrote on this album? Aside from Anjani, of course, I have never heard of any of them. . .
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by holydove » Sat Sep 27, 2014 10:04 pm

I just have to say that I adore this album. Like some others have said, on the first listen, there were a couple of places where I thought I would have preferred something different; e.g., I thought I liked the style/feel of the soundcheck version of My Oh My better than the album version, in which I thought I didn't like the horns so much, & I had some trouble with the sudden transition to the country-style instrumentation in Did I Ever Love You; but I loved everything else immediately. On the second listen, I already loved every moment of it, the above-mentioned troublesome instances had dissolved, & every time I listen to it, I love it more. It has such incredible variety, nuance & depth; it's the most intense, beautiful, & poignant 36 minutes I've ever experienced, & the nice thing about the short length is that it provides time to listen at least twice every session, which is a good thing, because the intensity, complexity, & depth really demand repeated listening.

My immediate favorites were Nevermind & Samson In New Orleans, which are both utterly gorgeous, brilliant, shining gems - & they remain my major favorites. But Did I Ever Love You became another favorite very soon, esp. Leonard's voice there, which is so gut-wrenching in its raw & urgent passion & its stark beauty. And You Got Me Singing is such an incredibly sweet & touching ending for the album - it totally melts my heart every time. I also love A Street & I think Leonard's passionate, fiery chanting along with the ominous keyboard & percussion behind, is a perfect arrangement for the song. The whole album is an exotic feast of richness & depth, with its beautifully strange & unique variety of sound & endlessly haunting voices & poetry.

You've done it again, Mr. Leonard Cohen, & I thank you with all my heart for this precious gift, which I know will keep giving, & whose hidden secrets will continue to reveal themselves for a very long time.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by holydove » Sat Sep 27, 2014 10:19 pm

danf wrote:Does anyone have any information about the people who played/co-wrote on this album? Aside from Anjani, of course, I have never heard of any of them. . .
Patrick Leonard also produced Leonard's previous album, Old Ideas; Alexandru Bublitchi, the violin player, toured with Leonard in 2012-2013; Dana Glover, who does backup vocals, also did backup vocals on Old Ideas. I've never heard of the others on the album before either. And I don't think Anjani is on this album; the other female voices are Charlean Carmon & Donna Delory.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by B4real » Sat Sep 27, 2014 11:26 pm

danf & Rachel, just thought I'd enlarge on who did what and how on each song :)

viewtopic.php?f=82&t=35371&p=347949&hil ... s+#p347898


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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by AlanM » Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:35 am

Like many on this forum I have listened to "Popular Problems" frequently since the streaming came online (thank you Leonard).
Listening to each track while reading the lyrics added to my enjoyment.
My first impression is that "Personal Problems" 'grabbed' me sooner than "Old Ideas". I revisited "Old Ideas" after hearing many of the concert performances and my appreciation of that album has increased.
I love all the tracks on this new CD.
I was a bit hesitant about "A Street" initially, having heard the recited version from several years ago. I am getting used to the faster phrasing of the album version now.
I think Leonard's voice on "Did I Ever Love You" is perfect.
I wonder if the central character in "Never Mind" is related to the one in "First We Take Manhattan".
IMHO the album version of "Born in Chains" is preferable to the previous concert versions (I hope to be able to hear him 'nail it' in future concerts).
In considering this I have come to the conclusion that I prefer LC singing Cohen songs because, when he sings to me, I believe what he is telling me.
Many people have covered Cohen songs very well but nobody else has that deep understanding of the song that comes from having written it.
I love Sharon's performances of "Alexandra Leaving" and The Webb Sisters' versions of "If It Be Your Will" and "Coming Back To You", but they are close second places to Leonard's performances, as are the Jennifer Warnes and Perla Batalla albums.
I thought that Perla and Julie's rendition of "Anthem" at Sydney Opera House was the best I had ever heard, but once I heard Leonard sing it in concert I knew, like "Hallelujah", it is only his song.

The evening after I collected my pre-ordered CD, I immersed myself in the words and music by listening to it on my sound system (better than my computer speakers), quite loudly and in the dark. Excluding other stimuli really accentuates the stories in the songs. I will certainly repeat this process.


p.s. Don't make any comments about listening to Leonard's dark lyrics in the dark. I have already thought of doing so and dismissed the idea. I have seen the humour in Cohen songs for decades.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by panjandrum » Sun Sep 28, 2014 3:38 am

Lots of great first impressions here already, so I'm not sure I have anything much to add. I'm loving the new album, and as always happens a new Leonard album reminds me of everything I love about his work.

I do suggest taking a journey if you can find the time: Take a relaxing weekend and start at the beginning and go all the way to the end. It's such a journey, taking the time to listen from Suzanne, that first track on that first album, all the way up through today... It's a worthwhile journey for sure.
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Re: Popular Problems - First Impressions

Post by alb123 » Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:56 am

The only thing that keeps me scratching my head is the absence of Sharon Robinson on this album. She has been a major part of every new Leonard Cohen album since 1988's I'm Your Man. Actually, I was quite shocked that Leonard didn't have any of the musicians from Old Ideas (basically his entire backing band from the tours) performing on this record. Did Leonard not ask them to participate? And if so, was it for financial reasons? Unless Sharon just needed a break - perhaps she is working on her own material or just wanted time off - I'm perplexed that she had zero involvement in this record.
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