The Seer (Swans album)

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The Seer
A painting of a wolf's face with its teeth bared
Studio album by Swans
Released August 28, 2012 (2012-08-28)
Recorded 2011; Studio P4 (Berlin), Andere Baustelle (Berlin), Marcata Studio (Gardiner, NY), Trout Recording (Brooklyn, NY)
Length 119:13
Language English
Label Young God
Producer Michael Gira
Swans chronology
We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
The Seer
Not Here / Not Now

The Seer is the twelfth studio album by American experimental band Swans, released on August 28, 2012. Producer and frontman Michael Gira funded the recording of the album with the sales of We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head. The album features vocals from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low, members of Akron/Family, Ben Frost, Grasshopper from Mercury Rev and former Swans member Jarboe.[5]


Frontman Michael Gira described the album as taking "30 years to make. It's the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined. But it's unfinished, like the songs themselves. It's one frame in a reel. The frames blur, blend and will eventually fade."[5] Describing the songwriting process, Gira said, "The songs began on an acoustic guitar, then were fleshed out with (invaluable) help from my friends, then were further tortured and seduced in the studio, and now they await further cannibalism and force-feeding as we prepare to perform some of them live, at which point they'll mutate further, endlessly, or perhaps be discarded for a while."

At nearly two hours, The Seer is over twice as long as its predecessor, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky. The album also features many drone elements, present in the title track and the first half of "A Piece of the Sky". The songs "Lunacy", "Mother of the World", "The Seer Returns", "The Daughter Brings the Water", and "A Piece of the Sky" were released as demos with the special edition of We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head.

The album was recorded in Berlin, Brooklyn, and Gardiner, New York.[6] The artwork from the album is by Simon Henwood, and features Gira's teeth. Gira also stated that The Seer would not be the last Swans album.[7]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 87/100 [8]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
The A.V. Club A[10]
Drowned in Sound 5/5 stars[2]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
The Independent 4/5 stars[12]
Pitchfork 4.5/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars
Spin 8/10 stars[14]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[15]
Tiny Mix Tapes 5/5 stars[16]

Upon its release, The Seer was widely praised by music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 87, based on 32 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[17] Writing for Rolling Stone, Will Hermes called the album Swans' "grandest statement yet" and described the title track as "a season in hell, and then some."[18] Also describing the title track, Jason Heller of The A.V. Club wrote, "It’s the most harrowing, exhausting, cathartic, transcendental piece of music Gira has ever put to tape. And that’s from a man who’s had many."[10] Thom Jurek of Allmusic described The Seer as "the most sprawling, ambitious, thoughtfully conceived and tightly performed recording in the band's catalog."[9]

Several music criticism websites included the album on their lists of the best albums of 2012, including Stereogum (#4),[19] Pitchfork (#5),[20] and Sputnikmusic (#1).[21]

Commercially, the album peaked at #114 on the Billboard 200 and at #22 on the Independent Albums chart.[22]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Lunacy" (featuring Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker) Michael Gira 6:09
2. "Mother of the World"   Gira 9:57
3. "The Wolf"   Gira, Christoph Hahn, Thor Harris, Christopher Pravdica, Phil Puleo, Norman Westberg 1:35
4. "The Seer"   Gira 32:14
5. "The Seer Returns" (featuring Jarboe) Gira, Hahn, Harris, Pravdica, Puleo, Westberg 6:17
6. "93 Ave. B Blues"   Gira 5:21
7. "The Daughter Brings the Water"   Gira 2:40
Total length:
Disc two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Song for a Warrior" (featuring Karen O) Gira 3:58
2. "Avatar"   Gira, Hahn, Harris, Pravdica, Puleo, Westberg 8:51
3. "A Piece of the Sky" (featuring Jarboe and Akron/Family) Gira 19:10
4. "The Apostate"   Gira, Hahn, Harris, Pravdica, Puleo, Westberg 23:01
Total length:

Vinyl LP track listing[edit]

The album featured a different track order for its vinyl release.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Lunacy" (featuring Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker) 6:07
2. "The Apostate Pt. 1"   13:18
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "The Apostate Pt. 2"   9:36
2. "A Piece of the Sky Pt. 1" (featuring Jarboe and Akron/Family) 9:36
Side three
No. Title Length
1. "A Piece of the Sky Pt. 2" (featuring Jarboe and Akron/Family) 9:30
2. "93 Ave. B Blues"   5:22
3. "The Daughter Brings the Water"   2:33
4. "Song for a Warrior" (featuring Karen O) 3:58
Side four
No. Title Length
1. "Mother of the World"   9:59
2. "Avatar"   8:49
Side five
No. Title Length
1. "The Wolf"   1:35
2. "The Seer Pt 1"   18:56
Side six
No. Title Length
1. "The Seer Pt 2"   13:17
2. "The Seer Returns" (featuring Jarboe) 6:15

Bonus live 2010/2011 DVD track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "No Words/No Thoughts"   18:50
2. "Avatar"   10:36
3. "The Apostate"   19:36
4. "Beautiful Child (fragment)"   3:43
5. "Jim"   8:16
6. "Sex God Sex"   7:13
7. "The Seer / I Crawled"   32:16


Additional musicians
  • William Rieflin – piano, organ, synthesizer
  • Karen O – vocals on "Song for a Warrior"
  • Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low – background vocals on "Lunacy"
  • Jarboe – background vocals on "The Seer Returns" and "A Piece of the Sky"
  • Seth Olinsky, Miles Seaton, and Dana Janssen of Akron/Family – background vocals on "A Piece of the Sky"
  • Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsella of Big Blood – accordion, vocals, dulcimer, guitar, piano
  • Sean Mackowiak (Grasshopper) – mandolin, clarinet
  • Ben Frost – Fire Sounds (Acoustic and Synthetic) on "A Piece of the Sky"
  • Iain Graham – bagpipes on "The Seer"
  • Bruce Lamont – horns on "The Seer"
  • Bob Rutman – steel cello on "The Seer"
  • Cassis Birgit Staudt – accordion
  • Eszter Balint – violin
  • Jane Scarpantoni – cello
  • Kevin McMahon – recording, processing, and mixing -additional drums on "The Seer Returns", and "Avatar" – additional guitars on "Song for a Warrior", and "Avatar"
  • Bryce Goggin – piano on "Song for a Warrior"
  • Stefan Rocke – bassoon on "The Seer"



  1. ^ a b Larson, Jeremy D. (August 30, 2012). "Swans – The Seer". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Swans – The Seer". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  3. ^ Reed, Ryan (August 28, 2012). "Swans: The Seer". Paste. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  4. ^ Lariviere, Aaron (November 9, 2012). "Swans Albums From Worst To Best". Stereogum. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Swans Reveal New Album Details". Pitchfork Media. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "SWANS - The Seer". Young God Records. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Writer: DarkwĂźlf. "Michael Gira". Beard Rock. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  8. ^ "The Seer – Swans". Metacritic. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  9. ^ a b "The Seer – Swans". Allmusic. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  10. ^ a b Heller, Jason (2012-09-18). "Swans: The Seer | Music | MusicalWork Review | The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  11. ^ "Swans: The Seer – Review". The Guardian. 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  12. ^ "Swans: The Seer – Review". The Independent. 2012-08-26. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  13. ^ "Swans: The Seer – Review". Pitchfork. 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  14. ^ "Swans: The Seer – Review". Spin. 2012-08-27. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  15. ^ "Swans: The Seer". Slant Magazine. 2012-08-26. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  16. ^ "Swans – The Seer". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  17. ^ The Seer Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More - Metacritic
  18. ^ Hermes, Will. "The Seer | Album Review". Rolling Stone. 
  19. ^ Stereogum’s Top 50 Albums Of 2012 - Stereogum
  20. ^ Staff Lists: The Top 50 Albums of 2012 | Features | Pitchfork
  21. ^ Staff's Top 50 Albums of 2012
  22. ^ "Swans Music News & Info". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  23. ^ "Brainwashed – Swans "The Seer"". Brainwashed. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 

External links[edit]