You Want It Darker
nolead ends Leonard Cohen is 82 and apparently not in the best of health. David Remnick's recent profile in the New Yorker of the song-poet with the sepulchral voice includes numerous Bob Dylan quotes but mentions no specific ailments. However, Cohen is not up for leaving the house. You Want It Darker, produced by his son Adam, his third album in four years, does little to dispute the notion that Cohen is standing at death's door.
That confrontation with mortality begins with the title track, in which he looks death square in the eye and talk-sings, "Hey baby, hey baby / I'm ready, my lord." And it continues throughout: "I'm leaving the table, I'm out of the game," he sings on "Leaving the Table," one of several songs informed by a lifelong love of country music. "I don't need a lover, so blow out the flame." There is one unspoken argument made throughout You Want It Darker, however, to encourage fans that the maker of "Hallelujah" and "Chelsea Hotel" isn't quite ready to check out. And that is simply that it's hard to believe an artist completely prepared to depart would be capable of making music that is this vital and, in its own stubborn way, full of life.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Brent Cobb
nolead ends nolead begins Shine on Rainy Day
nolead ends nolead begins (Electra ***)
nolead ends Brent Cobb has already enjoyed success behind the scenes as a writer of songs for country stars, including Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, and Luke Bryan. On his engaging major-label debut, the rural Georgia native does not go for a big radio-ready sound himself. Shine on Rainy Day opens with "Solving Problems," whose easy flow and felicitous wordiness recall John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind." The organic feel and mellow air inform much of the album, with Cobb's drawl especially affecting on slower numbers, such as the title track and "The World."
Cobb can idealize rural life, as he does on "South of Atlanta." But his low-key approach does allow for some spikiness in the writing and the performances - witness "Diggin' Holes" and "Let the Rain Come Down," which builds to an almost apocalyptic finish. The harder edge in the music comes primarily from the electric guitar of producer Dave Cobb, who is not only one of Nashville's hottest producers right now but also Brent's cousin.
- Nick Cristiano
nolead begins Phantogram
nolead ends nolead begins Three
nolead ends nolead begins (Republic ***)
nolead ends No longer content to be the big fish in the little pond that is maudlin glitch-hop, the shimmering sonic duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter remove all swishes of gothic gloom, switch out the "hop" for "pop," and go for the tarnished brass ring with their third LP. Phantogram still faces down and braces for the worst on the breathily forlorn "Barking Dog," the nightmarish "Answer," and the dub-heavy "Run Run Blood." From there, Phantogram's gray skies go from woe to wow-worthy silvery linings and find anthemic melody lines to match Carter's mopey-but-bright samples and Barthel's faux-Kate Bush drones. Collaborating with Meghan Trainor's main man Ricky Reed finds Phantogram on hot ice for the discophonic "You Don't Get Me High Anymore" and the uplifting "You're Mine." "Cruel World" may be heavy-handed and "Same Old Blues" might feel . . . same and old, but overall, Three is as cheery and cool as it is dour.