We begin at the end. When Leonard Cohen growls, “Hineni, Hineni/I’m ready, my Lord” on the opening track of You Want It Darker, we’re left to wonder what has him so prepared to cross the great divide. Throughout the remainder of the album, listeners are left to piece together Cohen’s strained journey to know the will of his Lord, all while being snarled by humanity, finding culpability in both himself and others. Many of the tracks come off as straightforward love songs and initially that is how I understood them. I took lines like “When I turned my back on the devil/Turned my back on the angel, too” to be metaphors for losing the beauty of love at the release of inner pain, only to realize later that Cohen may have meant these words quite literally. On “Treaty,” he desires to reconcile two forms of love that on the surface appear to belong distanced lovers but are in fact both his: earthly love and agape. “If I Didn’t Have Your Love” follows in this path. Unfortunately, God doesn’t do treaties, and so the man suffers. Pride, often disguised as arrogance, seeps through the record. At one point, Cohen writes off his master as a “ghost.” Even from a musical standpoint, there are times when he indulges too much in his formula. When this is the case, tracks whiff on the poignancy that their peers have. The title track is a wonderful exception to this, making it sound like a psalm collided with a bassist with a knack for underappreciated hooks and a drum machine. However, it is only on the tense and urgent “Steer Your Way” that Cohen finally surrenders, in more ways than one, to the grace that human nature has perverted in ignorance over time.