Popular Problems - Second Impressions

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

Post by yopietro » Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:48 pm

So I think I've learned a lesson about reviewing music. Not that I'm a professional music critic in any capacity. But I do love music and I certainly do have my opinions. And I love Leonard Cohen's music, which has been a huge inspiration for me, on my own songwriting and on my life path as a whole. The lesson that I've learned here is that one should give a number of listens to a record before contributing a review that could be considered useful. Especially when it comes to Cohen's records.

Last week, I had a bit of a "Greil Marcus" moment when I first heard the stream of Popular Problems. Marcus famously opened his Rolling Stone review of Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait album with the infamous question "What is this shit?" When I first listened to Cohen's new album, I was taken aback...even almost offended by the production choices. Not that I thought it was shit, but I was flummoxed. "The girls are too loud and too all over the album!" I protested. "There are too many touches of cheese, fake horns, etc," I declaimed. "Why can't he just record with Roscoe and the touring band??" I even questioned the strength of Patrick Leonard's songwriting contributions.

Now, after multiple listens, it is my time to publicly eat crow. This album has really grown on me. And the song that for me had represented the crux of the problematic nature of Popular Problems, "Did I Ever Love You," has come to haunt me in the best possible way. I should have known this would happen. When I first heard Ten New Songs, I had such a hard time connecting to the album. I couldn't hear past the drum machines, keyboard bass lines, and casio nature of the production. Then, I came to appreciate the album as a moving masterpiece. As in that album, the depth and scope of Cohen's soul on this record has now begun to possess me. When I first heard the new record, I recognized that the lyrics were excellent. That was no surprise. Leonard has always delivered the killer lyric. But now, the album has grown on me. It's soulfulness and vitality has presented itself. And I can't get "Did I Ever Love You" out of my mind. I look back on the loves of my life, and can ask the same questions to them, as Leonard proposes in this song. Once again, I find L. Cohen contributing to the soundtrack of my life. Thanks for this new record, Leonard. And sorry for drawing my gun and shooting so fast. You were always a quicker draw anyhow...
Last edited by yopietro on Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by blonde madonna » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:32 am

I've had a similar journey, I immediately loved the words and the tunes and LC's voice but needed a few listens to get used to the production.

'Did I ever love you' is the most haunting song for me too, it's in my head all the time (unless 'The Street' is, but not as persistently). It's the urgency in the singing that matches the questioning lyrics and then, towards the end of the song 'the lemon tree blossoms and the almond tree withers', lifts the subject matter to whole new plain, so simple and yet so layered with meaning, brilliant. The change in tempo with the back up singer threw me at first but now I think it breaks the song up nicely, go figure.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by Robin » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:55 am

I completely agree. Listened to the stream last week and was not impressed. The CD came today and opinion is completely different. It's a very deep record.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by BlizzardofIce » Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:53 am


I'll sign on to that, as I wrote in another tread I thought it was "crap" the first time i heard it.
It certainly grows on me. A lot better now. Still no classic, but fits in among the mediocre Cohen albums, witch means it has high quality compared to most other music. It's still not on my top5-cohen list, but it's a good record. Got it's great moments.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by cohenadmirer » Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:26 pm

First impressions maybe generally mislead with this album ?
Needed several listens
Really love it - written more on thread re amazon reviews .

Really hope to experience live versions of some of these songs ;-)
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by AlexandraLaughing » Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:19 am

I think I would agree. First time, I though yeah, good enough- couple of really good ones (Samson in New Orleans, which had me from the first line, and Did I ever Love You, ditto- though the tempo change was a bit of a shock, but I immediately assumed it was a tribute to 'Fairytale of New York', which does something not dissimilar). For some time I didn't like 'Slow' and always skipped it- then I listened again and realised it's a much deeper song than I thought. And the ones I liked at first, I liked even more each time I played them, and the ones I thought were OK came to seem more and more powerful.

But that tends to happen with me. I tend to decide I really like two or three or four the first time, and then the others follow more slowly.

Hasn't happened yet with Death of Ladies' Man (on which I only really like the title song and two others), but then I haven't played it that often... ;-)
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by Berislav » Wed Mar 18, 2015 5:24 pm

My expiriance with this album is very good from the first time I've listened all songs.
For me it is much better than previous one, becouse it sounds much more new and more fresh than the Old Ideas(which is great too, as are all Cohen's albums for me, but almost every on different way).
Some songs have made that ''booom'' impact on my brain on the first listening (and again and again) that for Old Ideas I couldn't say(except maybe for Amen and Different Sides especially).
I remember going out in a bar with my friends in the evening after i first time listened to Popular problems and beg waitress in the bar to play Did I ever love you from youtube so that my friends could hear that new cool song from Leonard(and the whole bar listened it too of course :D). Girls in the chorus made it so beautiful, catchy and light, so opposite from Leonard strong verses.
For me this is bingo!
A street is now one of my all time Cohen massive classics. It is so strong and last part of the song is doing just the thing it needs to do, makes you think about it.
My oh my and You got me singing are more and more beautiful as much as i listen to them. Some songs(and albums), not just Cohen's, are made for exploring and need a bit more time to ''land on solid ground of your ear'' but after that they are not boring after multiple listening becouse you always find some new level in them.
For example, I always listened Cohen at home or in my MP3 player but with this album I've found out that Mr. Leonard is so good travelling companion in your car at the maximum loudness :)
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by Athnuachan » Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:04 pm

Berislav wrote: with this album I've found out that Mr. Leonard is so good travelling companion in your car at the maximum loudness :)
I agree, Berislav!

Have been so besotted with "Live in Dublin" since its release that I haven't been listening much to "Popular Problems".
Have returned to it now, though, especially in the car. And it has worn well. "Samson" was my first love on this album, but now I find "Did I ever love you" and "You got me singing" are competing as favourites! It's just a great album.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by lizzytysh » Thu Oct 22, 2015 12:08 am

Last night was a lot of fun. A real treat! Took some quality milk chocolate with Leonard's 'new' [to me] cd, and some Tiramisu Gelato, which I picked up at the store en route to my friend's house, where she made dinner and I brought dessert.

Asked if she minded if I listened to the cd and she was happy to listen with me... and in silence, yet! She silently read the lyrics and only announced the name of each song when it ended, and a comment or two on each one, in between them.

The upshot was that she loved it as much as I did and made it a point that there's not a 'down' [not so good] one on it, and that she's going to get the cd... also that this is clearly just the introduction to each song, that you need to listen to them many times to get all the depth of them... and how much of a poet he is! I did not expect such a sympatico response, so it was sooooo satisfying for me to listen to the cd for the first time in such company!

Gave her a bookmark from the Gaudi museum [gift shop] at Familia Sagrada, too. She'll be checking him out, as well.

I LOVE this cd!!! Am wondering who Patrick Leonard is now... no doubt that's been well discussed on the Forum, but that was during my [intensive care of my beloved cat] Harvey period I'm sure! I didn't read anything on the album because I didn't want to be influenced, and glad I waited until I could hear it 'in person,' rather than over the computer.

Now to fill in the details I've missed.

[edited to correct "quality milk" to "quality milk chocolate"]
Last edited by lizzytysh on Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by Mkevenson » Thu Oct 22, 2015 2:45 am

lizzytysh, imagine I just opened "new posts" here and yours was the only new one to me. I am at work and listening to Popular Problems as I get ready to venture home.
I fully appreciate your description of listening with your friend, and she loved it as much as you. Cool!

Thanks for the timely post.

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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by lizzytysh » Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:35 am

Ah! Yes, I love it when that happens, too! 8) Love that timing :D
I just realized that I wrote quality milk, when I meant to say quality milk chocolate.

Yes, what a blessing for someone to truly listen with you vs. starting out that way and then descending into meaningless or even meaningful conversation [conversation that could wait until you've finished listening, though!], and then to have all her comments be spot on. Gratifying!

Now, I need to find out about this Patrick Leonard person, who's so heavily involved in this album.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by jarkko » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:52 am

Now, I need to find out about this Patrick Leonard person, who's so heavily involved in this album.

Patrick is also working with Leonard on the new songs (the studio album is progressing; but not ready for release in the near future)
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by lizzytysh » Sat Oct 24, 2015 4:54 am

Thank you for that, Jarkko!!!

I remember hearing about the Madonna connection. He's really got a long list of well known people he's worked with musically! It'll be interesting to hear the upcoming album, too. Popular Problems sounds quite different from Leonard's 'norm' [if there is such a thing ;) ].

He was born in Crystal Falls, too... that's a tiny town in the far west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My uncle and his wife lived there, and my family went to visit a lot. He was my favourite uncle.
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by JudasPriest » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:08 pm

PP has aged gorgeously- it our classes Old Ideas for me by a distance despite the latter having some terrific songs. But it feels a bit flabby and self important compared to PP which is just the epitome of cool...
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Re: Popular Problems - Second Impressions

Post by Cate » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:13 pm

It has aged gorgeously! This is still my all time favourite Leonard Cohen album and I still repeat songs over and over again in my car (that's not something I normally do past the first couple of listens to anything).
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