Swans
Leaving Meaning


3.0
good

Review

by SandwichBubble USER (83 Reviews)
October 30th, 2019 | 154 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: There's a name I forgot.

The newest incarnation of Swans has been fairly well-received, don’t you agree? Well sure, there are people that would've preferred it if Gira had called it quits back in the 90s or really hate Swans no matter the “era” they’re in. But barring these exceptions, fans and critics across the board seem to adore the run from 2012’s The Seer to 2016’s The Glowing Man. Excitement was rampant back when those revival-era records came out. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say they were bigger in the 2010s then then they were at any point in their career. Whether that’s justified, I’ll leave you to decide, but it’s undeniable that they had a lot of hype surrounding them.

So imagine my surprise when their follow-up to The Glowing Man was out and no one was talking about it.

Could it be because it was released after the strange limited-edition release, What Is This? I know that I was very put off from listening to that one, given how it was released with a hefty price tag under the guise of being “limited.” While it was released to finance this record, it probably didn't drum up a lot of interest for the album it was promoting. Bare folk numbers that were ultimately a bit dry. Now of course I know a demo isn't a completed product and is usually meant to showcase alternate takes or rough firsts of songs, but there have been plenty of instances where a demo was better than the completed studio version. But What Is This? brought the issues of the upcoming album to the forefront.

Leaving Meaning is very similar to those demos musically, with Swans opting to focus more on the folk and drone elements of their sound, while keeping the experimental rock around as merely a fail-safe; only to be used sparingly. Some might argue that past Swans records do the same thing, but it’s almost impossible to ignore on Leaving Meaning. Entire songs of what would be considered “buildup” on past albums clutter the tracklist to a debilitating degree. For the first time in a long time, finishing a Swans record feels like work.

From the opening notes of the droning “Hums,” any expectations listeners might have about the album are settled immediately. Leaving Meaning is heavily focused on ambiance, opting for slower tracks throughout. And while there are definitely tracks on the past 3 records that have a similar flair for the plodding (“When Will I Return?” off The Glowing Man and “Just A Little Boy” off To Be Kind come to mind), in addition to those being much better written and performed than most songs here, those tracks were capped with a burst of energy to make the admission price worth it. Whether it be a noisy rock blowout or some other interesting turn, it’s the payoff that makes the buildup forgivable. But Leaving Meaning often sounds like a prelude that never truly ends.

Aside from a few of its highlights, Leaving Meaning doesn’t seem to bother with things like payoffs; instead opting for long stretches of pleasant noise and not much else. Take “The Nub” for example, the album’s longest track. It follows a very similar formula to many of Swans’ longer tunes, even featuring vocals done by Jennifer Gira like on the aforementioned “When Will I Return?” But instead of switching things up like that song does, “The Nub” has a lot more in common with a single note being held for 12 minutes, ending on a phrase that’s all but a bit louder than how it began. More egregious are tracks like “It's Coming It's Real,” a strange gothic country number that’s enough to make you want to be put out to pasture. These folk and country elements the band plays with on this album work out exactly the way one might think they would (considering they made a poorly-received album in this vein already with The Burning World), and the result is very similar: decent at best, unexciting at worst.

All of that said, there are a few shining moments to be found here. “The Hanging Man” is definitely the A-side highlight, with a krautrock-influenced beat and a refreshingly-odd vocal performance by Gira. My favorite however was the post-punk stylings of “Some New Things.” Round of applause to the vibraphone player: perfectly meshing with the unsteady guitars and the repetitious vocals. But highlights like these are infrequent to say the least.

Perhaps I’m wrong about people not caring as much about Leaving Meaning as their other albums. Maybe it was just a slow start. Gira and co. still have a very large presence in the music world and will most likely continue to garner mild interest by long-time supporters and the ever-curious. Not every album has to speed to the finish line, surely. But if there was ever going to be a Swans album that crawls out of the gate on release, one that people will forget to mention in conversations years down the line, it would probably sound a lot like Leaving Meaning.



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user ratings (338)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/6zCMGYKxPgrV8snJYHGh13



Yeah.

hxciluvatarhxc
October 30th 2019


584 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree.

SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks, I knew you would.

Deez
October 30th 2019


10395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review man, Been saving this for the weekend as I have stuff on. You got me worried now.

SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nah, don't be too worried. I wasn't really all that big on The Glowing Man, but people seem to love that one so there's hope for you yet.

It's a very high 3.0 if that means anything at all (probably not).



I kind of just wanted to get a review out for this. Been out for a few days, needed a review.

hxciluvatarhxc
October 30th 2019


584 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's Coming It's Real is probably the best song on this album, surprised at your reading of it. Do you dislike the folk present on other Swans/Gira records? I think that song in particular is very important to the feel of the record as a whole (a lot like how Song for a Warrior* was crucial in The Seer)

SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think they're at their best when they're going a bit more rock-oriented I guess. Don't mind the folk if it's done well (I dig the folk stuff off the Seer). But I dunno, It's Coming just sounds very boring to me.

Some New Things comes directly after that one and it's seriously like a breath of fresh air. Probably just a "me" thing.

SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Think I posted this a bit too late again. I should stop doing that.

Gonna head off to work and probably get home to 6 out of 47 thought this review was well written

It'll be like an early Christmas in October.

hxciluvatarhxc
October 30th 2019


584 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow. You can still vote on reviews. Weird.



I actually think its a toss up between its coming its real and sunfucker for me as the songs i find most intriguing here. this album honestly feels more unique and...the word isnt essential...worthwhile? than the glowing man to me on first blush. that could certainly change though. swans is good

SandwichBubble
October 30th 2019


13797 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sunfucker's pretty good, one of the best on the album for sure.



"album honestly feels more unique and... worthwhile"

Totally on the opposite end, but I didn't really think the Glowing Man was all that great either. Still would probably put that one just a bit higher than this.

"swans is good"

Agreed (for the time being). Next album might be a real clunker though, who knooooows.

hxciluvatarhxc
October 30th 2019


584 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I would probably put the glowing man at the bottom of my post hiatus swans output, under this and my father will guide me etc. been a while since ive listened to my father though maybe i should do that and confirm these objective opinions.

CaliggyJack
October 30th 2019


10122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm pretty sure the muted response to Glowing Man had much to do with Gira being accused of sexual assault.

Wubs
October 30th 2019


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'm really digging this thing ay, seems like everyone prefers different tracks, but I love most of them.

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2019


26419 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

kinda wanna check this?

zakalwe
October 30th 2019


39505 Comments


Same

Wubs
October 30th 2019


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

My fav is the title track, fills me with bliss

qwenta
October 30th 2019


785 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I would have eliminated some tracks (The nub, Some new things and My phantom limb) to make it shorter but still has a vibe that I enjoy. The first half of the album is dope. The journey from Hums to Sunfucker is awesome.

Pikazilla
October 30th 2019


30473 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Agreed with the score. Worst Swans this decade.



Leaving Meaning? More like Leaving a Lot to be Desired.

zakalwe
October 30th 2019


39505 Comments


And that’s saying something. Fuckin hell

Pikazilla
October 30th 2019


30473 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The plod of the plods, zak



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