Perfect posthumous tribute
Hailing from Canada, Leonard Cohen built a brand around a minimalist and moody blend of folk and pop. He started relatively late to the industry, not releasing his first album until age 33, and was relatively under the radar until his 40s when he released his best-known hit, “Hallelujah.” But even that song didn’t gain much prominence until the Velvet Underground’s John Cale covered it a few years later. Nowadays it’s been one of the most covered songs in music, but many of the people who know it never knew the name of who actually composed it.
That being said, many artists consider Cohen hugely influential, including Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang and even Elvis Costello. Sadly, Cohen passed away in 2016 at the age of 82 while in the middle of working on a new record. His son Adam found the samples and turned them into the album they were intended to be. Enlisting help from prominent voices like Beck (guitar and Jew’s harp), Damien Rice (backing vocals) and Jennifer Warnes, the resulting product is Thanks for The Dance.
Upon first listen, one immediately notes that Adam chose to leave the songs as minimalist as possible (Cohen’s preferred style for most of his career), as his father’s deep speak-singing is usually accompanied by nothing more than sparse acoustic strums. The lyrics are delightful musings about topics such as a long string of failed relationships (“What Happens to The Heart”), a traveling Gypsy hooking up with a married woman (“The Night of Santiago”), and a scathing condemnation of people who follow blindly (“Puppets”).
Given the fact that Cohen died before he was able to complete Thanks for the Dance, the songs feel, well, unfinished. Adam did a great job turning them into good songs, but one can’t help but wonder if Cohen meant to turn them into something far bigger. That doesn’t wind up mattering in the big picture, as the material is well written and well-produced, but it’s interesting to think about occasionally. The last words uttered on Cohen’s final release are, “don’t listen to me,” but unfortunately for him, the world already did, and loved it.