Old Ideas

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Old Ideas
Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 31, 2012
RecordedOctober 2007, January–August 2011
ProducerEd Sanders, Patrick Leonard
Leonard Cohen chronology
Songs from the Road
Old Ideas
Popular Problems

Old Ideas is the twelfth studio album by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in January 2012. It is Cohen's highest-charting release in the United States, reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200, 44 years after the release of his first album. The album topped the charts in 11 countries, including Finland, where Cohen became, at the age of 77, the oldest chart-topper, during the album's debut week.[1][2] The album was released on January 27, 2012 in some countries and on January 31,[3] 2012 in the U.S. Before its release, the album was streamed online by NPR on January 22[4] and on January 23 by The Guardian.[5]


Cohen's international concert tours of the late 2000s were prompted by the fact his former manager made off with his life's savings. At their conclusion in 2009, Cohen decided to keep working and began making his twelfth studio album. Fans of Cohen had long become accustomed to long intervals in between albums - between 1979 and 1988 he released three - but the tour appeared to re-energize him, as biographer Sylvie Simmons observed in a 2012 Mojo cover story: "After his former manager helped herself to his savings, leaving him nothing to retire on, Leonard, in his seventies, having not been on the road in 15 years, embarked on one of the most remarkable, and remarkably successful, tours in music history, playing three-hour shows each night. And when it finished...instead of coming home and putting his feet up, he went straight to work on a new album and, even more extraordinary, in less than 12 months he finished it."

Recording and composition[edit]

Old Ideas was recorded in Los Angeles at Cohen's own studio in his house and at 7th Street Sound with Patrick Leonard and Ed Sanders. Many of the songs explore some of Cohen's favorite themes: mortality, sex, depression, and the quest for love in an apocalyptic world. Discussing the song "Amen" in his review of the album in Uncut, Andy Gill observes:

Again, it's a rumination on deeper, darker matters delivered in the guise of a love song, the refrain 'Tell me that you love me, Amen' punctuating a series of requests to 'Tell me again...' that grow progressively bleaker as the song progresses: what kind of love song, for instance, includes a line like '...when the filth of the butcher is washed in the blood of the lamb'? Clearly, this is about love on a larger scale, about notions of ethics and morality being eroded away as if unnecessary for the future, as Cohen acknowledges with some asperity: '...when the victims are singing and the laws of remorse are restored.'

Religious imagery is also prevalent, and many of the songs feature Cohen on the guitar, a change from his recent albums which had been dominated by synthesizers. Cohen worked closely with co-producer Patrick Leonard, writing four of the tracks with him: the resigned "Going Home," "Show Me the Place," "Anyhow" and "Come Healing." As Cohen told Mojo in 2013, he met the producer when he was making an album with Cohen's son, singer Adam Cohen:

And I know the work he did with Madonna. I think he's a seminal figure in modern American music, very brilliant. I was listening to some of his solo piano work, too. I bumped into him with Adam several times, and somehow we got together and these four songs we did together came very quickly...Pat saw the lyric for 'Going Home' and said, 'This could be a really good song,' and I said, 'I don't think so.' He said, 'Can I have a shot at it?' I said, 'Sure.' He came back with the music, I don't know if it was the next hour or the next day but it was very fast...He is a very unusual man and, I guess, we were both in good form...

One other song, "Crazy to Love You," was the result of a collaboration with jazz singer Anjani, who had first released the song on her 2006 Cohen-produced album Blue Alert (Cohen also provided all the lyrics for the LP). The songs "Darkness" and "Lullaby" had actually been debuted on his recent tours before being committed to tape. Cohen had originally wanted to call his previous 2004 studio album Old Ideas but opted for Dear Heather instead, fearing that fans might mistake it for a compilation album.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[8]
The A.V. ClubA−[9]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[10]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[11]
The Guardian4/5 stars[12]
The Independent4/5 stars[13]
MSN Music (Expert Witness)A−[14]
Rolling Stone4.5/5 stars[16]

The album received uniformly positive reviews from publications including Rolling Stone,[16] the Chicago Tribune,[18] and The Guardian.[12] At a record release party for the album in January 2012, Cohen spoke with The New York Times reporter Jon Pareles who states that "mortality was very much on his mind and in his songs [on this album]." Pareles goes on to characterize the album as "an autumnal album, musing on memories and final reckonings, but it also has a gleam in its eye. It grapples once again with topics Mr. Cohen has pondered throughout his career: love, desire, faith, betrayal, redemption. Some of the diction is biblical; some is drily sardonic."[19] In a four star review, Victoria Segal of Mojo called Old Ideas, "a quietly surprising album, full of grace, full of sadness, but also, most importantly, full of life." Uncut awarded the album four stars.

The album was named as a nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize on June 14, 2012.[20] The album was listed at #13 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 50 albums of 2012, saying "Cohen adapts to this uncharted age with a lifetime's worth of grace and wit." [21] Rolling Stone also named the song Going Home the 20th best song of 2012.[22]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Leonard Cohen, except where noted.

  1. "Going Home" (Cohen, Patrick Leonard) – 3:51
  2. "Amen" – 7:36
  3. "Show Me the Place" (Cohen, Leonard) – 4:09
  4. "The Darkness" – 4:30
  5. "Anyhow" (Cohen, Leonard) – 3:09
  6. "Crazy to Love You" (Cohen, Anjani Thomas) – 3:06
  7. "Come Healing" (Cohen, Leonard) – 2:53
  8. "Banjo" – 3:23
  9. "Lullaby" – 4:46
  10. "Different Sides" – 4:06


Charts and certifications[edit]


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  2. ^ Väänänen, Samuli (2011-02-10). "Suomen albumilistan kärjessä tehtiin historiaa!" (in Finnish). The Voice. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
  3. ^ "Leonard Cohen reveals tracklisting and release date for 'Old Ideas'". NME. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  4. ^ Powers, Ann (22 January 2012). "First Listen: Leonard Cohen, 'Old Ideas'". NPR. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas: exclusive album stream". The Guardian. London. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
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  11. ^ Rahman, Ray; Anderson, Kyle (January 27, 2012). "Albums: Feb. 3, 2012". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
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  13. ^ Gill, Andy (January 20, 2012). "Album: Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on January 23, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 31, 2012). "Leonard Cohen/EMA". MSN Music. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  15. ^ Powell, Mike (February 1, 2012). "Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Levy, Joe (January 26, 2012). "Old Ideas". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  17. ^ Marchese, David (January 31, 2012). "Leonard Cohen, 'Old Ideas' (Columbia)". Spin. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  18. ^ Kot, Greg (24 January 2012). "Album review: Leonard Cohen, 'Old Ideas'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  19. ^ Pareles, Jon (29 January 2012). "Final Reckonings, a Tuneful Fedora and Forgiveness". Music. The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  20. ^ "Polaris Prize long list includes lots of Toronto bands". Toronto Star, June 14, 2012.
  21. ^ https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-best-albums-of-2012-20121205/leonard-cohen-old-ideas-19691231
  22. ^ https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-best-songs-of-2012-20121205/leonard-cohen-going-home-19691231
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  40. ^ http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/506281/lana-del-rey-debuts-at-no-2-on-billboard-200-albums-chart
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  44. ^ http://www.dutchcharts.nl/jaaroverzichten.asp?year=2012&cat=a
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  60. ^ "French album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  61. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Leonard Cohen; 'Old Ideas')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  62. ^ "Irish album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  63. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  64. ^ "Polish album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas" (in Polish). Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  65. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Leonard Cohen; 'Old Ideas')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  66. ^ "British album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 17, 2017. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Old Ideas in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  67. ^ http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2012/02/adele-lana-del-rey-and-leonard-cohen-lead-the-pop-charts.html
  68. ^ "American album certifications – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.