To Be Kind

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To Be Kind
Swans To Be Kind.jpg
Studio album by Swans
Released May 12, 2014 (2014-05-12)
Recorded 2013
Studio 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.[3][4][5] 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.[6][7]

Background[edit]

The album was produced by Michael Gira and recorded by John Congleton at Sonic Ranch 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.[8][9] 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.[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 88/100[11]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[12]
The A.V. Club A−[2]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[13]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[14]
Mojo 4/5 stars[15]
NME 9/10[16]
Pitchfork Media 9.2/10[17]
Q 4/5 stars[18]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[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".[11] 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."[12] 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."[21] 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".[19]

Ross Horton of musicOMH gave the album a 5-star score, commenting: "Gira shows that the Swans resurgence isn’t a fluke."[22] 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."[23] 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."[24] 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."[25]

Nevertheless, Jon Dennis of The Guardian was mixed in his assessment of the album, describing the album as "uncompromising to the point of overindulgence", and the lengthy track "Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture" as "like The Doors playing "The End" for ever, only without the easygoing bonhomie."[13]

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 European 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)[26][27]
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:[9]

Swans
Additional musicians
Other

Charts[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[28] 51
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[29] 39
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[30] 106
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[31] 75
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[32] 56
UK Albums (OCC)[7] 38
US Billboard 200[6] 37
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[33] 5
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[34] 7
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[35] 10

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Worldwide (except North America)[8] May 12, 2014 2CD, 2CD+DVD, 3LP, digital download Mute Records
North America[3] May 13, 2014 Young God Records

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bland, Benjamin (May 6, 2014). "Album Review: Swans – To Be Kind". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (January 27, 2014). "Swans Announce New Album To Be Kind Featuring St. Vincent, Michael Gira Announces Solo Tour". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ Breihan, Tom (January 27, 2014). "Swans Announce Double Album To Be Kind". Stereogum. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  5. ^ Young, Alex (January 27, 2014). "Swans announce new album, To Be Kind, featuring St. Vincent". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved January 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Swans – Chart history" Billboard 200 for Swans. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Swans | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ a b "To Be Kind – Young God Records". Young God Records. Retrieved March 29, 2014. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ a b "Reviews for To Be Kind by Swans". Metacritic. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "To Be Kind – Swans". AllMusic. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Dennis, Jon (May 8, 2014). "Swans: To Be Kind review – perfectly listenable swamp blues". The Guardian. Retrieved May 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ Roberts, Randall (May 12, 2014). "Review: Swans deliver fearless, fierce and intense 'To Be Kind'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 23, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Swans: To Be Kind". Mojo (247): 90. June 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. ^ "Swans: To Be Kind". Q (335): 121. June 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Grow, Kory (May 13, 2014). "To Be Kind". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  20. ^ Sherburne, Philip (May 12, 2014). "Swans’ ‘To Be Kind’ Is a Monolithic Orgy of Blood, Guts, and…Love". Spin. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  21. ^ Wilson, Anna (May 1, 2014). "Swans – To Be Kind". Clash. Retrieved May 1, 2014. 
  22. ^ Horton, Ross (May 12, 2014). "Swans – To Be Kind". musicOMH. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  23. ^ Gibb, Rory (May 9, 2014). "Swans – To Be Kind". The Quietus. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  24. ^ McAuliffe, Colm (April 30, 2014). "Swans – To Be Kind". The Skinny. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  25. ^ Pattison, Louis (June 2014). "Swans: To Be Kind". Uncut (205): 81. 
  26. ^ "Swans – To Be Kind / Mute". Piccadilly Records. Retrieved May 11, 2014. 
  27. ^ To Be Kind (booklet). Swans. New York City: Young God Records. 2014. 
  28. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Swans – To Be Kind" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "Ultratop.be – Swans – To Be Kind" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  30. ^ "Ultratop.be – Swans – To Be Kind" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  31. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Swans – To Be Kind" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  32. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  33. ^ "Swans – Chart history" Billboard Independent Albums for Swans. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  34. ^ "Swans – Chart history" Billboard Top Alternative Albums for Swans. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  35. ^ "Swans – Chart history" Billboard Top Rock Albums for Swans. Retrieved May 23, 2014.

External links[edit]