To Be Kind

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To Be Kind
Studio album by Swans
Released May 12, 2014 (2014-05-12)
Recorded 2013; Sonic Ranch, Tornillo, Texas
Genre
Length 121:12
Language English
Label
Producer Michael Gira
Swans chronology
Not Here / Not Now
(2013)
To Be Kind
(2014)
Oxygen EP
(2014)

To Be Kind is the thirteenth studio album by American experimental band Swans, released on May 12, 2014. It was released as a triple LP, a double CD, and a two-CD deluxe edition that includes a live DVD of performances from Hellfest Open Air Festival, Pitchfork Music Festival and Primavera Sound Festival, as well as a digital download.[4][5][6] Critical reception of the album was very positive, continuing a string of well-received albums from the band. The album peaked at number 37 on US Billboard 200, and later debuted at number 38 on the UK Albums Chart. Both are the highest chartings that Swans had ever achieved on a studio album, and it is the first time that the band cracked the top 40 in both countries.[7][8]

Background[edit]

The album was produced by Michael Gira and recorded by John Congleton at Sonic Ranch, the world's largest residential recording studio complex, in Tornillo, Texas, 30 miles from El Paso and at Congleton's studio in Dallas. Swans began rehearsing at Sonic Ranch in October 2013 and began recording soon after, they finished mixing with Congleton in December in Dallas. Most of the music was developed while touring in 2012 and 2013. The album features special guests St. Vincent, Cold Specks, Little Annie and Bill Rieflin.[9][10] On March 21, the song "A Little God in My Hands" and the album artwork were revealed. Bob Biggs did six images of babies' heads as artwork in c. 1976 that were used for the album.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 88/100[12]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[13]
The A.V. Club A−[3]
Clash 9/10[14]
Drowned In Sound 10/10[1]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[15]
NME 9/10[16]
Pitchfork Media 9.2/10[17]
The Skinny 4/5 stars[18]
Uncut 8/10[19]
Spin 9/10[20]

Upon its release, To Be Kind 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 88, based on 35 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[12] Mark Deming of Allmusic gave the album a positive review, stating: "Michael Gira is a man unafraid to follow his muse wherever it may take him, and To Be Kind is another example of his singular vision writ large without compromise."[13] Anna Wilson of Clash praised the album, describing it as "Karlheinz Stockhausen’s jarring classicism, Captain Beefheart's twisted blues, and the industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten coalescing into a swirling musical miasma." She also stated that the album is "near perfection."[14] Benjamin Bland of Drowned in Sound gave the album a 10/10 score and stated: "A two-hour odyssey of similar proportions to The Seer, this is an album that emphasises rather than establishes Swans' reconfirmed position at the top of the experimental rock tree, but that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill." He also further commented: "Now that this mission has been completed there is space for To Be Kind, and future Swans records to affirm, rather than prove, that Swans are, and perhaps always have been, the greatest rock group on the face of the planet."[1] Writing for Rolling Stone, Kory Grow also compared this album to The Seer as well as the 1996 effort Soundtracks for the Blind, noting how Swans' sound has evolved so that they "don't just crush—they hypnotize".[21] The Needle Drop gave the album a 10/10, making To Be Kind the second ever contemporary album to receive a perfect score from the site, after Death Grips' The Money Store.[22]

Ross Horton of musicOMH gave the album a 5-star score, commenting: "Gira shows that the Swans resurgence isn’t a fluke."[23] Stuart Berman of Pitchfork Media praised Gira's efforts on the album, stating: "He's responded in the best way possible: by producing a record that, in structure and scale, is every bit The Seer '​s equal, yet possessed by a peculiar energy and spirit that proves all the more alluring in its dark majesty."[17] Rory Gibb of The Quietus wrote: "By this point they've further coalesced into an inseparable entity: on To Be Kind we experience Swans as totality, all seething ebb and flow, crafting music that seems to breathe of its own volition." He also stated that the album's songs "feel more fluid and open-ended than before, expressive and rich in possibility."[24] Colm McAuliffe of The Skinny also gave the album a positive review, stating: "Despite the two-hour plus running time, Swans appear to be – gasp! – enjoying themselves; they’re still staring into the abyss but the abyss is no longer staring back." He also noted that the album "displays much more diversity than its immediate predecessors."[18] Louis Pattison of Uncut wrote: "Yet as the name suggests, To Be Kind does feature a quality hitherto rare in Swans: that of tenderness." He also further stated: "Michael Gira is not only still moving forward, but making some of the albums of his career."[19]

Nevertheless, Jon Dennis of The Guardian was mixed in his assessment of the album, describing the album as "uncompromising to the point of overindulgence."[15]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Michael Gira

Disc one
No. Title Music Length
1. "Screen Shot"   Michael Gira 8:04
2. "Just a Little Boy (for Chester Burnett)"  
12:39
3. "A Little God in My Hands"   Gira 7:08
4. "Bring the Sun" / "Toussaint L'Ouverture"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
34:05
5. "Some Things We Do"   Gira 5:09
Total length:
67:05
Disc two
No. Title Music Length
6. "She Loves Us"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
17:00
7. "Kirsten Supine"   Gira 10:32
8. "Oxygen"   Gira 7:59
9. "Nathalie Neal"   Gira 10:14
10. "To Be Kind"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
8:22
Total length:
54:07
  • The vinyl version was pressed incorrectly, leading "Oxygen" to be placed on side 5 before "Kirsten Supine" on the record, despite the packaging listing them in the correct order.
2CD+DVD Edition bonus videos (Live at Primavera 2013)[25][26]
No. Title Music Length
1. "To Be Kind"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
20:41
2. "Just a Little Boy (for Chester Burnett)"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
10:46
3. "Coward"  
8:36
4. "She Loves Us"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
18:17
5. "Oxygen"   Gira 7:17
6. "The Seer / Toussaint L'Ouverture"  
  • Gira
  • Hahn
  • Harris
  • Pravdica
  • Puleo
  • Westberg
45:35
Total length:
111:10

Personnel[edit]

Album personnel adapted from the official Young God Records website:[10]

Swans
Additional musicians
Other

Chart positions[edit]

Charts (2014) Peak
position
UK Albums Chart[8] 38
US Billboard 200[7] 37
US Billboard Alternative Albums[27] 7
US Billboard Independent Albums[28] 5
US Billboard Top Rock Albums[29] 10
US Billboard Tastemaker Albums[30] 3

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Worldwide (except North America)[9] May 12, 2014 2CD, 2CD+DVD, 3LP, digital download Mute Records
North America[4] May 13, 2014 Young God Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bland, Benjamin (May 6, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". Drowned In Sound. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/swans/to_be_kind/
  3. ^ a b Heller, Jason (May 13, 2014). "No Animals—Maybe Just Humans—Were Harmed in the Making of Swans' To Be Kind". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Swans Announce New Album To Be Kind Featuring St. Vincent, Michael Gira Announces Solo Tour". Pitchfork Media. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Swans Announce Double Album To Be Kind". Stereogum. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Swans announce new album, To Be Kind, featuring St. Vincent". Consequence of Sound. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Swans - Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Swans - UK Official album charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Swans Sign to Mute, announce new album ‘To Be Kind’ – out 12 May. Announce Michael Gira solo acoustic EU tour.". Mute Records. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "To Be Kind - Young God Records". Young God Records. Retrieved March 29, 2014. 
  11. ^ Pelly, Jenn (March 21, 2014). "Swans Share New Song "A Little God in My Hands", Six-Part Art for New Album To Be Kind". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Swans - To Be Kind". Metacritic. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Deming, Mark (May 6, 2014). "To Be Kind - Swans". Allmusic. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Wilson, Anna (May 1, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". Clash. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Dennis, Jon (May 8, 2014). "Swans: To Be Kind review – perfectly listenable swamp blues". The Guardian. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  16. ^ Pearlman, Mischa (May 12, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". NME. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Berman, Stuart (May 12, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b McAuliffe, Colm (April 30, 2014). "Swans – To Be Kind". The Skinny. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Pattison, Louis (June 2014). "Swans - To be Kind". Uncut: 81. 
  20. ^ Sherburne, Philip (May 12, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". Spin. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  21. ^ Grow, Kory (May 13, 2014). "Swans To Be Kind Album Review". Rolling Stone. Arrow Media. 
  22. ^ [1]. The Needle Drop. Retrieved 2014-11-02.
  23. ^ Horton, Ross (May 12, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". musicOMH. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  24. ^ Gibb, Rory (May 9, 2014). "Swans - To Be Kind". The Quietus. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Swans – To Be Kind / Mute". Piccadilly Records. Retrieved May 11, 2014. 
  26. ^ To Be Kind (booklet). Swans. New York City: Young God Records. 2014. 
  27. ^ "Swans - Billboard Alternative Albums". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Swans - Billboard Independent Albums". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Swans - Billboard Top Rock Albums". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Swans - Billboard Tastemaker Albums". Billboard. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]