But, in thinking about the old Leonard Cohen, and the young Leonard Cohen, I came upon the video for "No Death" from Ethiopian-born, Finland-based singer Mirel Wagner, which also hit U.S. sites yesterday (though her album was released overseas on a small Finnish label last year). Singing in stark terms about a dead lover, Wagner's dark and minimal version of folk has the rich, simple potency of Cohen in his youth. (Compare that to this Cohen cover by Cults which seems to miss several points simultaneously.) Now, Wagner's song doesn't have the twinkly-eyed narrative charm of his old records, but Cohen never really sang like this, either.
Wow. Not exactly the cheeriest of sentiments to get you out the door on a winter Wednesday morning, but commanding rapt focus using very little in the way of elaborate production or flashy imagery is a rare power indeed. The video's last seconds are a fitting image: eyes glaring out from near total darkness, refusing to break contact, finally blinking as the song fades. Wagner's self-titled record is being released domestically on March 27th, through Friendly Fires, and is now circled with a bright red line.