One of the most poetic of the prophets in popular music, Leonard Cohen has created a vast body of first-rate work (11 albums, two novels, and a whole lot of verse) without quite achieving the mythic status of Bob Dylan. On The Future (Columbia), he joins the ever-burgeoning trend of musicians usurping the role of political commentator from the network pundits. He stands out among the legions, who are mostly enamored of doomsaying, with a humorous message of hope about “Democracy coming to the U.S.A.” Cohen balances this happy prospect with “The Future,” which he describes as “murder” with things “going in all directions.” And when he’s not prophesying, he’s singing about sex with the clarity of a male who genuinely likes females and is more fascinated by the mystery of “other” than by anatomical detail. His voice seems to have developed more rasp and less basso profundo as he’s aged, so now he sounds an awful lot like Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straits. Or maybe that’s vice versa. In any case, it’s a very relaxed rasp that puts the listener in an equally relaxed state, just this side of a nap, and receptive to whatever vision of the future Cohen wants to pour into your brain. —C.M.Y.