“Five years since his last album of new material, Old Ideas is full of the sort of poetic, inward musings against soulful, albeit restrained, back-up singers that has been Leonard Cohen’s forte since his debut. So to a casual listener, myself included, there is very little to compare or have to offer beyond describing Old Ideas as precisely the sort of melancholy world-weary narrators of Cohen’s lyrics, and the slow, shuffling pace of the music that we’ve come to know.
Instead, in Old Ideas, there is only the colors of the instruments in the background that give each track their feeling. It usually does not get any more complex than the basic jazz combo and Leonard’s own deep near-monotone bass that, many times, does not seem to go above a whisper – or in some cases, a low, ominous grumble. “The Darkness” stands out for the smooth electric keyboard and simplified hard blues guitar riff, and lyrically, having a few Tom Waits-like punchlines like “I said ‘Is it contagious?’ / You said ‘Just drink it up.’” A campfire-style harmonica also lets “Lullabye” shine just a bit behind the darkness of Leonard’s voice. [...]”