Lyric Riffs

Oct 27, 2016

Don’t play stupid/Don’t play dumb/Vagina’s where you’re really from/Vagina’s gonna win the race

from Straight Outta Vagina lyrics by Pussy Riot

“Patriarchy is dumb,” reads a sign in Pussy Riot’s new video, released just as the penultimate manifestation of misogyny is in a tailspin after creeping a bit too close to the presidency. The orange one dug his own grave with sexism and racism, particularly against immigrants. So it feels right to honor the imminent first vagina in The White House with an anthem of the one origin we all share.

Oct 26, 2016

And in the moment I see everything/Start to finish, sad defeat/Shivering, lying naked next to you/And that’s the last you heard of me

from Last You Heard Of Me lyrics by Joyce Manor

A stark guitar and vocal walk into a karaoke bar and the rhythm section kicks in to let us know it doesn’t smoke weed. There’s no joke or chorus here, but the guitars crank into overdrive as our protagonist’s eyes lock with a stoner girl in the parking lot. The crescendo is more satisfying than the night they spend together, foreseen in so many past compulsions that played out exactly this way.

Oct 25, 2016

I wish there was a treaty we could sign/It’s over now, the water and the wine/We were broken then but now we’re borderline/And I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty between your love and mine

from String Reprise / Treaty lyrics by Leonard Cohen

The emotions are thick, full of melancholy and reflection. Luckily the orchestration lightens the mood, opening the gates for yet another journey. It’s an extension of a previous song, but in this light there is an altogether different feel. Instead of morbidity there is an air of reconciliation that carries on through to the end. A swan song with multiple dimensions.


Oct 25, 2016

They whisper still, the injured stones/The blunted mountains weep/As he died to make men holy/Let us die to make things cheap

from Steer Your Way lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Industrialization is a vicious and unforgiving monster, one that has caused irreversible damage to both the Earth and mankind. It’s a lightening rod topic that stirs Cohen into a frenzy. Subsequently, he puts the cryptic lyricism aside, opting for a more direct presentation. The sense of urgency is subtle, but the mood Cohen has set makes every slight change in emotion seem seismic.


Oct 25, 2016

Sounded like the truth/Seemed the better way/Sounded like the truth/But it’s not the truth today

from It Seemed the Better Way lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Fact versus truth, a concept that looms large. Cohen wraps his gnarled hands around this dilemma, and wrangles it to the ground easily with his old man strength. The key to his success is his fluid nature, the ability to change his mindset without the resistance that comes with age. The violins and choir are a bit much, but it’s that flare for the dramatic that gives his words that distinct edge.


Oct 25, 2016

I guess I’m just somebody who/Has given up on the me and you/I’m not alone, I’ve met a few/Traveling light like we used to do

from Traveling Light lyrics by Leonard Cohen

The wailing violin adds an even more potent level of drama. Couple that with some haunting vocals and you have the makings of a wild tale. Cohen’s voice is like a campfire, warming up the room with a hypnotic tone. There is a transient element that has him moving from one scene to the next. And true to its namesake, the light load makes his steps easier and more freewheeling.


Oct 25, 2016

If the sea were sand alone/And the flowers made of stone/And no one that you hurt could ever heal/Well that’s how broken I would be/What my life would seem to me/If I didn’t have your love to make it real

from If I Didn't Have Your Love lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Keeping in stride with the somber hues, Cohen leans back and embraces the softer side of life. The percussion is ever so slight, but strong enough to chase down his fugitive memories. He’s packing a lifetime’s worth of emotion into a small space, which is only possible by creating the right tone and atmosphere. He’s showing gratitude only as he knows how; pouring his heart out with no filter.


Oct 25, 2016

I don’t need a pardon, no, no, no, no, no/There’s no one left to blame/I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game

from Leaving the Table lyrics by Leonard Cohen

With a bluesy twang of the guitar, Cohen is sent packing. He’s calling it quits, cashing in and making his way to the promised land; one man knowing when it’s time to move on. The universal message is striking, and is particularly meaningful in a time when everything works at lightening speed. He’s always moved at a different pace and it’s time for him to transition yet again.


Oct 25, 2016

They oughta give my heart a medal/For letting go of you/When I turned my back on the devil/Turned my back on the angel, too

from On the Level lyrics by Leonard Cohen

Cohen frames the philosophy that the same thing that makes you laugh will also make you cry. But instead of buckling and getting caught up in polarity he sidesteps the game, realigning his life trajectory towards something more worthwhile. Battling ideologies of this magnitude is not an easy undertaking, but with the help of some savvy musicians he’s able to traverse this land with confidence.


Oct 25, 2016

I do not care who takes this bloody hill/I’m angry and I’m tired all the time/I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty/Between your love and mine

from Treaty lyrics by Leonard Cohen

His body and mind are weary and with his last breath he calls out for peace. The deathbed confessional offers a panoramic view of a world boiling over with rage and hypocrisy. The velvet melodies drifting in the background come with a hint of gospel, creating a supple landscape for him to address his relationship with the almighty. There is a reckoning, but he handles the tension with grace.



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