06 December 2005

leonard cohen - "take this longing" (from the new skin for the old ceremony lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : a friend said, "you need to be listening to new skin right," and so am i. and so should you.

once upon a time, i remember reading that stephin merritt was contributing music to the audiobook versions of series of unfortunate events, written by friend and magnetic fields contributer lemony snicket, aka daniel handler. i thought that that was a v. neat idea, and it suggested an interesting way forward for the audiobook, as staid a format as there exists. when one adapts a book into a film, there are necessary changes made; why shouldn't that be the case when made into sound?

tonight, listening to new skin, it occurred to me how leonard cohen, as literary a singer/songwriter as has ever existed, perfected the form some thirty years earlier. not w/ songs of, where john simon's orchestrations are a bit too much, but w/ john lissauer on new skin, john lissauer whose work w/ cohen here and on various positions would be his only high-profile production work (much as one anticipates merritt's work on handler's books to be the extent of his audiobook work.)

it is an ideal partnership, and perhaps this is so b/c lissauer didn't go out applying his touch to everyone w/ an acoustic guitar. there's the barest hint of saxophone and organ, and backing vocals like angel's breath, all enhancing--not overpowering--cohen's recitation. for his part, in addition to his usual shattering, painfully acute poetic observations, cohen contributes an actual guitar riff, the acoustic guitar as raw as an autumn tree stripped bare, w/o the benefit of snow to protect its exposed skin. the friend who suggested new skin didn't say i should post "take this longing"; that it has often soundtracked my way of thinking about her--particularly the "shattering" and "painfully acute" parts--make me hope she's not reading this. it is, all told, an amazing reading, nonetheless, inspired cohen.

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