Swans - To Be Kind
Critic Score
Based on 35 reviews
2014 Ratings: #2 / 1004
Year End Rank: #13
User Score
2014 Ratings: #2
Liked by 137 people
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Drowned in Sound

The ten tracks collected here, ranging from five to 34 minutes in length, demonstrate everything that Swans have ever been over their career, but it is their bloody mindedness that continues to stand out.

The Line of Best Fit

Swans are as furious and as boundary-pushing as they’ve ever been, and despite the meticulous composition of the album, there’s still the constant nagging suspicion that Gira has gone utterly, chaotically insane.


If you’re already a Swans fan, you won’t listen to it as many times as you’ve listened to Children Of God, Holy Money or the equally-gargantuan Soundtracks For The Blind, but you’ll love it every time you do hear it. Guaranteed.

The Needle Drop

Swans' latest album takes a hypnotic, meditative approach to churning out some of the most grand and visceral rock instrumentation in the band's 13-album discography.


To Be Kind is not just an exercise in futility, but in durability as well. It tests the listener with all of its will, and holds them at its mercy for two hours straight.

The Arts Desk

To Be Kind is the sound of a beautiful, primeval chaos that taps directly into the root without any unnecessary artifice and could quite conceivably be their best album to date.


That is the beauty and wonder of a massive work of art like this. There is no end to the nuances and subtleties that lay within. Find your starting point and start exploring.


To Be Kind adheres to a policy of transcendence by any means necessary, even if it means repeatedly bashing you in the face with a mallet until you’re seeing stars and colors.

Consequence of Sound

In its droning self-focus, To Be Kind exposes the core, both its own and the listener’s, revealing the visceral building blocks of the song as well as the acts of listening and existing.

A.V. Club

It’s a veritable gnostic gospel of noise-rock; hovering above the scraping and sawing of most mere mortals with guitars and drums, the album scrapes and saws as if attacking the fabric of reality rather than mere sanity. 

Pretty Much Amazing

To Be Kind is a loving ode to chaos, full of deranged, mutant energy and even more brilliant for it.


'To Be Kind' is not easy or pleasant; it will probably repel and confuse as much as it inspires. It’s a Hieronymous Bosch painting come to life, impossible to tear your eyes away from despite the grotesque atrocities it depicts.

Tiny Mix Tapes

To Be Kind achieves an intimacy no Swans album has ever approached, but it also ranks among their most turbulent works to date.


As all-consuming a ritual as rock music is capable of giving us, and also as viscerally, joyously life-affirming.

Wondering Sound

To Be Kind thrills in and with discomfort: radical dynamics and collapsing rhythms, uncompromising runtimes and repugnant sentiments.


While its progeny hasn’t fallen far from the tree, ‘To Be Kind’ is altogether more colourful, an expansive record – fleshier, bloodier and lusciously psychedelic.

Metal Hammer

Swans can easily stake their claim to be the best live band currently operational in the world today. And now with the release of To Be Kind – a titanic, initially punishing but ultimately rewarding masterpiece – their recorded output can comfortably claim to be among the best there is as well.

Spectrum Culture

To Be Kind is an absolute behemoth of a record no matter how you slice it, delivered by a machine that is somehow possessed enough to go to hell over and over, each time bringing back its incubus in newer, darker forms.

The Skinny

On the evidence of To Be Kind, Gira and co. have thoroughly outlasted and outperformed their atonal contemporaries and honed their hostile grind into a sinewy and slinky onslaught of light and shade.


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.

Time Out London

It is a literally awesome record, huge, stark songs that explode with tectonic immensity. But its immensity is such that it never quite gets its hooks in the way ‘The Seer’ did


It is an album that, with a little bit of dedication and a bit of effort leaves you agog. 


That’s the challenge of To Be Kind, and indeed all of Swans’ music as of late; even when it is catchy, as it often is, it calls for the listener’s entire focus.

The 405

Incredibly, they're becoming even less safe, even less predictable, as they near pension age

No Ripcord

Swans have always made albums that are meant to get you to sit down and really *listen,* but with To Be Kind, that seems especially true. The dynamic range on the album is, quite literally, startling.

FACT Magazine

Though Swans’ records are invariably seedy, To Be Kind is downright sexy, tender like a snake and surprisingly intimate.


This time around, the band seem a bit more comfortable with using production to serve the songs on the record ... The effect is wholly satisfying, confusing and obliterating — everything a Swans record should be. 


By the end, you will also feel as though you have touched something profound, something elemental. If this sounds enticing, good luck, and be careful.


These songs roll in like dark clouds, heave and grunt like a galley slave under the lash, or beat relentlessly, like a forehead hammering against a wall.

Under The Radar

Moods and settings are carefully established, and as each track unfolds, it's never immediately evident whether the conclusion of any given odyssey will more likely be lyrically or viscerally climactic, or both.

Rolling Stone

These days, they don't just crush – they hypnotize.

The Guardian

To Be Kind is uncompromising to the point of overindulgence. It's a patience-testing two hours long.

Think of this concept for a minute and sit with it: a piece of art that can fuck you over without inherently hurting you.

As of writing this I've had some quarrels the past few years which has caused me to build an emotional wall to protect myself. Maybe more of a dome than anything. The past month or so I've been slowly tearing it down through personal writing and brief conversations. I say this because I had an interesting dilemma today.

You see, I hit a point where I had said everything ... read more
I should probably update this review since this album is what I would consider to be the greatest album of the decade as of right now.

I’ll keep it short, because I have a 50 minute video talking about this album on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/4ebwC7EAoaA

The first time I listened to this album... nothing. I got nothing. I even skipped half way through tracks (this was before I even cared, or expected anything greater from music) and I got half way one day, and I finished the ... read more
what could be said about To Be Kind that hasnt already been said. seriously, this album is easily one of the most iconic and talked-about albums of the 2010s. if you take music reviewing or listening seriously, you've no doubt heard To Be Kind at least once or twice. it's just one of those albums that transcends music itself and really defines an entire decade. so like, what's even the point of me reviewing it? what perspective can i bring to this album that may shed new light on it? honestly, ... read more
ive skipped tracks because of how long they were

edit: (original score: 25) im not gonna be a basic bitch and give this album a 100 because, in my eyes, this is not a perfect album. but i wont run around and tell you that this album is bad and you shouldnt listen it, on the contrary, this album deserves at least one listen

the instrumentation is excellent and somewhat disturbing. the lyrics are not that good, but for this album, they are not the main focus, so i'll give it a pass.

at first ... read more
Ok, so I’ve only owned this on vinyl for less than two weeks, yet I’ve played it on my record player at least 10 times, and I’ve realized that this album is nothing less than perfect. Every track is its own perfect concoction of relaxing mixed with unsettling and overwhelming as it speeds through its 2 hour runtime. I’ve decided that this deserves that perfect score, making swans the only band I’ve given two perfect scores. The tracks I didn’t like as much at ... read more
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Added on: January 27, 2014