“The Future” by Leonard Cohen (No. 14)

Album cover: The Future by Leonard CohenThe Future is currently my favorite album by Leonard Cohen, and some of his darkest material.

Coming four years after I’m Your Man, The Future finds Cohen even less optimistic and just as hoarse. That’s OK, he has a choir of angels to back him – or, at least, it sounds that way.

If you’ve seen Natural Born Killers, several songs off The Future are going to sound familiar. (If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the soundtrack is really the best thing about the movie…)

The upbeat tempo and infectious hook of “The Future” belie its apocalyptic predictions. This may be the most catchy song to ever feature a chorus singing “repent!”, undermined of course by Cohen’s rejoinder of “I wonder what they meant?”

“Waiting for the Miracle” is almost equally pessimistic, but still musically gorgeous. Slower, more ponderous, but goes hand-in-hand with “The Future.” Don’t be deceived, though, the entire album isn’t all gloom and doom – though that’s a fine mode for Cohen.

Things are more lighthearted with “Closing Time.” This should be played in every bar at last call. Love the fiddle on this, and Cohen’s more upbeat delivery. Guaranteed, Cohen’s never going home alone at closing time unless he wants to.

There’s also the gentle ballad “Light as the Breeze.” Cohen’s taking his time with these songs. Only one under five minutes, most of the tracks are six or seven minutes. And that’s fine, just fine indeed.

Cohen croons his way through “Always” admirably, with minimal but tasty backing on guitar, drums, and piano. (And, as always, heavenly backing vocals.)

And if you want inspiration, look no further than “Anthem.” Another moving ballad by Cohen, I really love this track. “There is a crack in everything \ that’s how the light gets in.” Great lyrics, fantastic performance. Granted, Cohen could literally perform the phone book to great effect, but I prefer the non-phone book approach.

The Future closes out with “Tacoma Trailer,” a pleasant instrumental. I don’t usually think of instrumentals when I think of Cohen, but it’s a very nice piece. I wouldn’t cue this up to play separately from the rest of the album, but in context it’s a great closer for the album.

You’ll note I added “currently” up there. Today, this is the Cohen album I have the most affection for… but I have a feeling that if the rest of You Want It Darker is as solid and somber as its title single it’s going to be displaced pretty quickly.

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