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To Be Kind

Swans - 2014

Swans are a strong contender for the best band working today. After spending the 80’s and most of the 90’s putting out experimental music, they disbanded in ’97. In 2010 they reformed, and made a big splash in 2012 with their epic double album, “The Seer”. It made my top ten of 2012, with it’s menacing ferocity. Swans frontman Michael Gira has a gift for creating an aura around his albums. There are concepts, which are not always evident, and while you spend the 2 hours listening to “The Seer” and now “To Be Kind”, you are in Michael Gira’s world. Swans make a music that’s a bit hard to define, which is one of the things that make it soooo great. It’s “experimental rock” for lack of a better term. The songs rarely have a verse-chorus-verse structure, but amazingly, you don’t mind at all. The bread and butter of Swans is their ability to build a song over the course of 6, 8, 15, or even 30 minutes and not only keep it interesting, but take you on a journey. Their songs quite often revolve around a central riff or groove that will repeat over and over. They take that groove and twist it, smash it, caress it, and transform it until all that’s left is a mangled shell of what it once was. Now, this isn’t meant to imply that they’re a heavy band that pounds on your ears for 2 hours until you beg for mercy. No, that would be too much. The brilliance is in the build up. It’s in the quiet moments, where spooky sounds, percussion, and any type of instrumentation add layers to the foundation that the band has laid down. At the center of this music is frontman Michael Gira, who acts as conductor and ringmaster of this circus. His vocals can be menacing, as when he cackles, “I’m just a little boy” over and over again, before declaring, “I need loooooooove”, on the second track. The lyrics, mush like the music can be minimalistic. He says A LOT with very little. The track, “Some Things We Do”, is literally that, a list of things we do. (We fuck, we cum, we breathe, we hold, etc.) The first single, “A Little God In My Hands” is a good taste of the album, since it’s a relatively short 7:08 long, and has a great groove that builds to a nice head.The drum groove is the anchor of the album, keeping a constant, just under mid-tempo, head-bob going. The tracks has a little of all of the elements that make “To Be Kind” so great. The groove, the build, the vocals, and the instrumentation (are those laser beam sounds?), all combine to create this meal of a song. As a music fan who generally praises brevity, it takes a lot for me to truly enjoy a double album. They usually suffer from a lack of editing. A few strong ideas and songs, surrounded by a bunch of filler. Since Swans don’t play by the usual songwriting rules, I feel they can get away with it, but they still need to make a collection of music that can sustain a listener for 2 hours. They’ve absolutely done that here. You can’t throw a 30 minute song on just anytime, so it may not be the most played album in your iTunes library, but if you allow Michael Gira to take you where he’s going, you’ll be rewarded with the most engaging album of the year.

Posted by Tambe



Posted: 06/28/2014

Review by:



Tambe ranks this as the
#3 favorite album of 2014