Albums of the year – October 2016
With all the heartache and despair that September’s album of the month brought, we needed a lighter touch to help warm the colder nights. What we got instead was Leonard Cohen.
At 82, he continued this year’s trend of old boys demonstrating just how it should be done. His final album, as the title suggested, was a dark reflection on life by an author approaching its near end.
With a preference to now growling his words, Cohen was still poetic and intriguing. ‘I’m ready my Lord’ he whispered on the opening title track, its deep bass and atmospheric choir helping him along. You could argue that You Want It Darker is a statement rather than a question but, either way, our reply was ‘yes we do.’
On The Level, the only song with any real kind of chorus, had him soulfully contemplating: ‘They ought to give my heart a medal for letting go of you.’ Treaty and If I Didn’t Have Your Love were just as romantic. And despite the gloomy subject matter, Travelling Light and Steer Your Way used the violin to help elevate them to life.
Peppered with references about leaving the table, it wasn’t difficult to see what Cohen was hinting at. But for all his talk of tying up loose ends, he had also been expressing an enthusiasm for life. How sad that, only a month later, he would join 2016’s long list of musical losses. In one recent interview, he shared how he intended to live forever. We still don’t doubt it.
There were two other unique (albeit younger) voices worth listening to in October. D.D. Dumbo seemed to come out of nowhere with Utopia Defeated, an album that could be the missing link between Paul Simon’s Graceland and M.I.A.’s Kala. Basically, it was world music for pop ears.
We also had Let Them Eat Chaos from performance poet Kate Tempest. Spitting over urgent electronica, she offered modern perspectives from everyday characters with a lot on their mind. It may not have been an album you returned to again and again, but it was definitely one that left a lasting impression.
D.D. Dumbo: Utopia Defeated
Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos