Odds are long that Old Ideas will be the last album Leonard Cohen makes. Assuming it’d take him eight years to finish another one—the span of time separating this and its predecessor, 2004’s Dear Heather—he’d be 85, which is awfully old to be bothered with this business of pop music. Then again, Cohen never seemed to exist within the realm of pop or rock or even folk music, he always was an other, not so much flaunting the rules as disregarding them entirely. What mattered to Cohen was the text. Cohen began singing at the ripe age of 33, correctly betting he’d receive greater recognition and riches as a singer/songwriter, and he never had music in his bones the way that, say, Bob Dylan did. His allegiance always was to the words and during the golden age of the major labels he was surrounded by big-league producers—Bob Johnston, Phil Spector—that gave him warmth even when the setting was spare but as studio musicians were swapped for synths sometimes in the ‘80s, the balance became lopsided and his productions wound up insouciant. On Old Ideas, this indifference is almost charming and it’s all due to his age; the cheap cleanliness isn’t there for expedience or laziness, it’s the suit that fits him best. Unlike, say, Dylan who thrives upon mess and spontaneity, Cohen is orderly: every word has its place, with every sound supporting the word. Grooves and grit are not for him, these pristine instrumentations are his milieu for they do not distract from Cohen’s fathomless groan. Bearing considerable signs of the erosion of age, this weathering adds resonance to the text in a way the transparent arrangements do not and considering the gravity of the songs, this sign of life is needed. Mortality is on his mind as it has been for several years now and he doesn’t avoid although there’s surely traces of mordant humor threaded through the songs. All momentum derives from Cohen’s delivery and his grave intonations are powerfully alive even if the music is not lively. The aural antiseptic starkness tends to underscore death’s slow march forward; he’s not fighting against the dying of the light, he’s not rushing forward to embrace the end but he’s accepted that it’s coming and he’ll just sit and wait doing things as he’s always done, wringing as much humor and pathos as he can while he can.