There’s often a feeling of dread with the announcement of a posthumous album by a beloved artist, comprised of vocal recordings paired with new music. But the fear factor with Leonard Cohen is vastly reduced: firstly the record is masterminded and produced by his singer-songwriter son Adam, who knew his father’s ambitions for this material; but most importantly, Cohen was first and foremost a poet. His words, recited in that subterranean rumble, carried great weight unaccompanied by music, so adapting them from the other side of the grave doesn’t reduce their power, whether he’s eulogising former lover/muse Marianne Ihlen on Moving On, or anticipating his own demise on the brooding The Hills, with the remarkable lines “My page was too white, my ink was too thin, the day wouldn’t write what the night pencilled in.” All his familiar themes are present – love, loss, lust, God, death – sometimes within the space of one song. Beck, Leslie Feist, Damien Rice, Jennifer Warnes and Aaron Dessner are on here somewhere, but it’s difficult to spot them on these sparse recordings. The music all but falls away as the son focuses the spotlight on the father’s voice: a dead man sounding very much alive. BARRY DIVOLA
DEEP RAVE MEMORY (Drone) ★★★★½
In a way, Richard Fearless’ first record under his own name has been a long time coming. The Death in Vegas founder and front-man planned his solo debut around four years ago, but his computer containing the would-be album was stolen. He put out another Death in Vegas record instead, before finally returning to his original plan: an album that hews closer to his DJ sets, stripped back to its basest elements. The industrial East-London wharf where Fearless’ studio is housed acts like a character on the record, in that the overall tone is similarly monochromatic, and different layers of noise sharpen and fade like various levels of din throughout the day. The title track, where ribbons of calming synth squiggle over each other on a long, meditative loop, is the album’s brightest and most melodic piece. Atlas of Insanity, a tetchy, thrilling, peak-time rave track, is followed by the spare, lovely Driving with Roedelius and then Broken Beauty, which mutates, and then reincorporates its original elements into a warped, literally offbeat oddity. Deep Rave Memory is that rare mixed bag where the results are often terrific and never less than interesting. ANNABEL ROSS
COURAGE (Columbia) ★★★
For almost half a decade Celine Dion has proven herself to be a bona fide chameleon. With a proclivity for soaring vocal trills and heart-wrenching ballads, the Quebecois star’s greatest hits helped define an entire era of pop. Now with her 12th English studio album, Dion attempts something new. Coming off the back of her husband’s death in 2016, Courage is a sombre meditation on grief (Perfect Goodbye), loss (For the Lover That I Lost) and rebirth (Falling in Love Again), served on a bed of EDM textures and cascading pianos with the occasional pop twist. Dion is full of surprises, enlisting EDM producer David Guetta, Eminem collaborator DJ Khalil and such heavyweights as Sia and Sam Smith. Her voice soars on dance opener Flying on My Own, challenging the frenzied beat drop. It’s on the album’s campiest moments (Imperfections, Lovers Never Die, Lying Down) that she really shines, her piquant performance skills rounding out otherwise saccharine moments. There are, however, flashes where Dion loses herself in the production, as on Baby, where she sounds more like Sia than the diva we know so well. This isn’t Dion’s most memorable work, although it’s great to hear her having fun again. KISH LAL
Dave Holland/Zakir Hussain/Chris Potter
GOOD HOPE (Edition/Planet) ★★★★½
Zakir Hussain has done it again. The tabla master – among the great living musicians – has form in helping make unlikely jazz trios work brilliantly, including on 2006’s Sangam with saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Eric Harland. Here his fingerprints are all over an enthralling dialogue he shares with bassist Dave Holland and Holland’s one-time saxophonist Chris Potter. The tabla makes a striking difference to every aspect of the way the music unfolds. One example is that even the most melodious jazz drummers – Jack DeJohnette, Ed Blackwell or Max Roach, say – could not weave this level of melodic content into the grooves. Another is that, in the absence of cymbals, the overtones and nuances of timbre from Potter’s tenor and soprano are heard much more nakedly. The tabla’s presence also narrows the dynamics to a chamber-jazz range, yet without shrinking the collective energy in the least. Holland gives the grooves his trademark supercharged propulsion and startling embellishments, and Potter, meanwhile, turns in his finest work in terms of both invention and profundity since his time with Paul Motian. The recording quality will flatter your sound system, too. JOHN SHAND
Writer and author Barry Divola – who specialises in music, popular culture, food and travel – lives in Sydney, but his heart lives in New York.
Annabel Ross is a Reporter for The Age.
John Shand has written about music and theatre since 1981 in more than 30 publications, including for Fairfax Media since 1993. He is also a playwright, author, poet, librettist, drummer and winner of the 2017 Walkley Arts Journalism Award
Barney Zwartz, a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity, was religion editor of The Age from 2002 to 2013.