In The Beginning: Times Square Billboard introduces Old Ideas. Photo: Kezban Özcan
First, Old Ideas Hits the Charts
Leonard Cohen found himself in unfamiliar territory when his Old Ideas album quickly and decisively garnered high rankings on the sales charts in countries around the world. The chart below, for example, show the Feb 2, 2012 iTunes Store Top 10 albums by country.
iTunes Top Albums By Country – Feb 2, 2012
Now, Old Ideas Hits The Best Of 2012 Lists
Now it’s the time of year when music journals and other institutions announce their choices for the best album of the year. Here’s how Old Ideas is doing so far.
Old Ideas By Leonard Cohen – Uncut’s Album of the Year 2012
Uncut January 2013 Album of the Year 1. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas – Columbia
In many ways, 2012 has been a vintage year. Six of Uncut’s Top 10 albums this year were made by artists over 63, the most senior of all being Leonard Cohen: when his 12th album was released, in January, Cohen was a sprightly 77 years old.
From the moment he began his recording career, of course, Cohen always seemed more mature than most musicians. It wasn’t just his age — he was already 33 when Songs Of Leonard Cohen came out in 1967 — it was something about his worldview, the patina of experience which settled on his words about love and sex and faith and, even then, death. We are blessed, really, that the ’60s singer-songwriter who should be first to countenance his 80th year is also the wisest and most eloquent of that gilded generation. Old Ideas might have had its roots in expediency, and the financial crisis which forced Cohen back onto the road in 2008. But the fastidious poetic vision, the perfectionist’s anxiety, the high seriousness and self-deprecating wit, remained as pronounced as ever. Unlike his last few albums, the album found Cohen backed by his exemplary live band rather than bedroom synths, and among his new collaborators were one or two surprising ones: co-writer Patrick Leonard, for instance, made his name working with a less elevated juggler of the sacred and profane, Madonna.
All of them though, built the ideal environment in which Cohen could move and meditate. Old Ideas was a record about, among other things, mortality — “I’ve got no future, I know my days are few,” he noted on “The Darkness”. But it was also subversively light on its feet, because Cohen was still too sharp — and, defying his reputation, wryly optimistic — to avoid the doom and nostalgia which would consume lesser writers.
If Old Ideas was a valedictory statement, it was a magnificent one, from a man who had been making them for years, and knew that, somewhere down the line, he might yet make even more.
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Is #5 On Spinner’s 50 Best Albums Of 2012
Posted Dec 7, 2012 at Spinner’s 50 Best Albums Of 2012. Spinner had also listed Old Ideas in its July 9, 2012 post, The Best Albums of 2012 So Far — And How to Enjoy Them!:
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas: The 77-year-old legend’s voice has deepened so richly over the years that it would be a pity not to listen to this album by sipping a finely aged scotch and contemplating life.
Spinner’s Top 5 Albums for 2012 follow:
1. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
2. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
3. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
4. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A. d city
5. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Is #4 On American Songwriter’s Top 50 Albums Of 2012
From American Songwriter’s Top 50 Albums Of 2012 (American Songwriter December 4th, 2012):
4. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas
The album title is Leonard Cohen’s little joke, implying that his latest album will have more of the same explorations of love, sex, faith, death, and all the other weighty topics he has assayed over his long recording career. Old Ideas is far from derivative of past glories though. Cohen’s self-deprecating humor perfectly balances out the philosophical stuff. Take “Going Home,” in which the singer imagines himself as God and describes his servant Leonard as “a lazy bastard living in a suit.” As usual, the instrumentation is pretty spare, allowing Cohen’s fathoms-deep voice to take center stage. That instrument is still surprisingly potent, especially when it shows its vulnerability on the questing “Show Me The Place.” Leonard may feel that God has a harsh opinion of him, but we mortals can’t help but be swayed by these Old Ideas.
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas #4 On MOJO’s Best LPs of 2012
MOJO’s Best LPs of 2012
1. Jack White – Blunderbuss
2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
3. Bill Fay – Life is People
4. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
5. Dexys Midnight Runners – One Day I’m Going To Soar
6. Black Keys – El Camino
7. Django Django – Django Django
8. Dr John – Locked Down
9. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
10. Bob Dylan – Tempest
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Is #13 On Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2012
At 78 years old, the dapper Canadian sage came back to whisper his heavier-than-ever poetry about sex and spirituality, complete with bedroom scenes like “I’m naked and I’m filthy/And there’s sweat upon my brow.” As a man who never really sounded young he was well into his thirties when he dropped his classic debut album in 1967 – Cohen adapts to this uncharted age with a lifetime’s worth of grace and wit. Best lines: “I dreamed about you, baby, you were wearin’ half your dress/I know you have to hate me, but could you hate me less?”
50 Best Albums of 2012 Rolling Stone
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas Makes NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2012 List
The ever-polite NPR folks (the same folks, no doubt, who disallow keeping score at their kids’ T-ball games) don’t rank the individual albums on their 50 Favorite Albums Of 2012 List; rather, the entries are listed alphabetically (see full list below). Similarly, their graphic (see above) does not betray their preferences. I have adjusted that graphic (see below) to properly apportion the space to quality ratio. This refined version does lose some nuance along the periphery but the clarification of significance more than compensates.
From NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2012:
LEONARD COHEN OLD IDEAS We don’t receive the gift of a Leonard Cohen record often; there’s been a dozen studio records in 45 years and nothing since 2004. So when I heard that a new record was coming in 2012, a voice deep inside said, “Oh, please be good, please be good.” It didn’t disappoint. If ever any singer/poet was going to shed wisdom on aging, it was always going to be Cohen. He’s now in his late 70s, so we’re not likely to have this experience too many more times, but for now, Old Ideas is a thoughtful slice of philosophy, well aged and sparingly told. —Bob Boilen
Dec 15, 2012 Update: Since the original posting, Old Ideas has been listed on several other “Best If 2012″ lists: