Showing posts with label swans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label swans. Show all posts

Thursday, October 31, 2019

video review: 'leaving meaning.' by swans

So this was... odd to talk about? Kind of wish I liked it a lot more, but it happens...

Next up is Miranda Lambert, so stay tuned!

album review: 'leaving meaning.' by swans

So what constitutes an artist's finale?

Because you can tell that's a question that's hung heavy on a lot of people, from an artist close to his deathbed to an act realizing they've got no more stories left to tell and must dissolve. Of course, in both cases if the artist goes on living or the band finds another burst of inspiration, said 'finale' can hit an odd note - not everyone can do what David Bowie did with Blackstar, after all, and you can tell with the themes and arcs of the last several Willie Nelson albums that he's expected his passing long before now. And I bring this up because the last time I reviewed Swans in 2016 with their massive album The Glowing Man, I was operating with the information that it would be their last album, especially given the thematic heft given to massive questions of God and the purpose of humanity. Turns out there was some truth to that, as mastermind Michael Gira said that it was their last album with anything close to a stable lineup, with the only returning and consistent member this time being lap steel guitar player Kristof Hahn and other former members and guests only brought on to realize specific moments on certain songs. And while with a title like leaving meaning. you can make the argument they are once again going for a finale vibe - which was what some of the hype was indicating - I was curious to put in the hours of time and really absorb this Swans album - so what did we get?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

video review: 'the glowing man' by swans

An absolutely punishing listen, but so worth it for the absolutely killer thematic resonance and some incredible moments.

But on the topic of punishing... well, stay tuned.

album review: 'the glowing man' by swans

This will reportedly be Swans' final album.

Or at least this incarnation of the group, which reformed after their first breakup in 1997 in 2010, working to push out some of the most massive and primeval music created in experimental rock. Because while there are very few groups I cover that I would consider impossible for mainstream listeners to appreciate, Swans is daunting even for me, known less for sane song structures than mammoth ten minute plus compositions that pile on layers of instrumentation to create thunderous crescendos and grooves. There are very few groups that dare to approach their scope and power, and while they might have been a tad more accessible in the late-80s and 90s thanks to a stronger melodic presence, which led to masterpieces like Children Of God and The Great Annihilator, in recent years the scale of their focus has led to behemoths of sound. This culminated in 2014 with To Be Kind, their largest ever work and was critically acclaimed by many - including myself - as one of the best records of that year, which further brought in a thematic focus on how a child might experience the huge emotions of the world. Swans mastermind Michael Gira has described the record's goal as ecstasy, but when engorged to such colossal scale, it's easy to see how unsettling the huge emotions might seem to anyone else.

But where do you go after such an effort? To Be Kind was the sort of high water mark that Swans had already hit twice before, but there has to be a limit to that sort of scale, you can only push crushing instrumental layers and growth so far. And as such, while I heard that Swans were - necessarily - going to be dialing the insane crescendos back a bit for The Glowing Man, how would they hit the same impact?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2014

Holy shit, this video took hours. Really happy with it... except for some of the volume levels on the music, but that was such a pain in the ass to get right that I'm fine with where they are.

Next up, Mastodon. Stay tuned!

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2014

I've been debating with myself pretty consistently over the past few weeks whether or not to make this. It's a pretty common thing with critics to take stock of their favourites at this point of the year, and considering I've covered 108 albums thus far this year, in terms of sheer volume it'd make sense for me to go back and take stock of what I've heard and what deserves consideration going into the second half of the year. And while I'm leery about spoiling my year-end list, long-time fans will probably be able to figure that out anyways, so why not go the extra mile and draw a spotlight to some acts that are definitely worth the consideration. 

So without further ado:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

video review: 'to be kind' by swans

I'm actually pretty damn proud of how this video turned out. Probably one of the more difficult reviews to articulate that I've written, and it looks pretty solid.

Okay, next up is Mariah. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2014

album review: 'to be kind' by swans

There are certain rock bands that if you mention them in polite conversation, you'll have pegged yourself as a hardcore music nerd. Bands that critics love but who have never scored a hit on any chart of which you've ever heard - or you know, maybe just the one song, but it's a song that the fans will swear isn't representative of the band at all. Bands that have vast discographies of albums critics and hardcore fans will talk about for hours while everyone else in the room shrugs and goes back to their beer. 

And as a newer critic who's always hunting for more music, it's always been a difficult and yet vastly rewarding challenge to go through these discographies. Last year for me was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Push The Sky Away ended up on my list of favourite albums of that year. And this year, the challenge looked even greater, as I was now tackling a band with a monstrous reputation in a genre up to a few years ago I wouldn't have even called music. 

The band was called Swans, originating the early 80s as an act in the no-wave scene, focused less on cohesive melodies and lyrical songs than crushing percussion, musical textures, and guttural phrases repeated into a mantra. It was a musical philosophy that flew in the face of what I liked in music... and yet by the time I got to Children of God, they had won me over wholesale. Perhaps it was the moment they opted for a slightly more melodic approach, but Swans' brand of punishing viscera was effective beyond that, primal, emotionally gripping, and genuinely unsettling, but also nuanced and frequently beautiful and outside of a brief moment on a major label with The Burning World, some of the most inspired compositions I'd heard in a while, with the biggest highlights for me being the thought-provoking Children Of God and the damn near inspired The Great Annihilator.

And thus I can only imagine how it felt for Swans fans in the late 90s when the band broke up after Soundtracks for the Blind. And yet in 2010, the band reformed with a new lineup and released My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky, which was a decent return but not quite up to the standards of their truly amazing material, just feeling a little underweight. Thankfully, Swans kicked things into harsher gears with The Seer in 2012, and now they're back with their newest album To Be Kind, which is so far one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year. So with that in mind, how did it go?