[[quoteright:330:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Swans_9780.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:330: Swans' 2012 lineup. Michael Gira is in the cowboy hat.]]

Swans is a [[GenreRoulette rather diverse]] No Wave, PostPunk, and lately PostRock band from UsefulNotes/NewYorkCity. The band was initially formed in 1982 and ran until 1997 with various lineups, and was reformed in 2010. Throughout its history, leader Michael Gira has been the band's only constant member, although Jarboe, who was with the band from 1984-97, is notable for her long tenure.

The only uniform traits that you could get from their music, if you will, is that the song structures often focus on repetition, instrumentally and/or lyrically, but that they still manage to not get tiresome because of the chaotic nature of their work. This is especially apparent on their earliest work.

For most of their existence they have been primarily an underground act (although they have finally seen a bit of mainstream success, or at least MainstreamObscurity, with their reunion,) and the one song that the public (might) know best would be their cover of Music/JoyDivision's {{signature song}} "Love Will Tear Us Apart." They've also released two other singles, 13 studio albums, 9 live albums, 7 compilation albums, 11 [=EPs=], and have made four music videos, but these aren't exactly well known.

They got their start with a [[SelfTitledAlbum self-titled EP]] in 1982, followed by their LP debut ''Filth'' in 1983. The latter is known for its harsh {{noise rock}} and {{industrial}} influences, and very well could be considered an UrExample for {{grindcore}}. (For the record, Mick Harris, a drummer for Music/NapalmDeath, was describing the sound of Swans to a friend in 1984 and used the term "grind;" [[TropeNamers therefore, Swans could also be credited for inspiring the term "grindcore."]])

Once Jarboe joined the band, Swans slowly moved away from the brutal aggression of ''Filth'' and the 1984 releases of ''Cop'' and ''Young God'', opting for slightly softer (but just as insane) music, beginning subtly with the 1985 ''Time is Money'' 12", continuing with the "money" albums (''Greed'' and ''Holy Money'', 1986) and culminating with ''Children of God'' in 1987.

Following ''Children of God'', Gira stated that he was tired of Swans being affiliated with the brutal noise of the first four [=LPs=] and also felt that the audience had expectations that he probably wouldn't fulfill. Going on into the '90s, Jarboe began to have an even bigger role in the band and softer elements, including classical instrumentation and, in later years, vibraphone.

With the surprise hit on US college radio of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", Creator/{{Universal}}/[[Creator/MCAVideoDistributingCorporation MCA]] offered Swans a record deal. Gira described it as this:

->''"I've worked so hard all my life. At 15, I was digging ditches in the deserts of UsefulNotes/{{Israel}}, and I put myself through college painting houses. I never saw any money from any of our records. So by the time I finally got that carrot dangled in front of me, it was like, at last I can make a living at what I love to do."''

They took the offer and released ''The Burning World'' in 1989. It featured more melodic pop melodies, but the lyrics, just as with anything before it, were often dealing with depression, death, greed and despair, but were sung, as opposed to chanted or shouted. Troubles with Uni/MCA, though, led to the band leaving the label and starting their own company, Young God Records. Their first Young God release was 1991's ''White Light from the Mouth of Infinity'', which combined the earlier {{hard rock}} influences and the later pop melodies, making for a rather complex record in comparison to earlier work.

Later on down the line came ''Love of Life'', the EP/single ''Love of Life / Amnesia'', and 1995's ''The Great Annihilator'', possibly their most accessible album. Eventually, though, Gira decided to break up the band, citing exhaustion, audience misconceptions, and a desire to start over and work on a smaller scale. They released an epic double-album (one of the most highly regarded albums of their career) ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' and went on a world tour, which were showcased on the live album ''Swans Are Dead'' as a testament to their last years together. Jarboe moved on to a successful solo career, while Gira started a more folk influenced band ''Angels of Light''.

In January 2010, their Website/MySpace page was changed to display "SWANS ARE NOT DEAD," and Gira released a solo album on Young God, entitled ''I Am Not Insane'', to raise money to record the new Swans album. In September of 2010, this was realized with the release of ''My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky''. Another reunion album, ''The Seer'', followed in August 2012, to virtually universal acclaim. It also expanded their audience substantially. The band's third reunion album, ''To Be Kind'', came in May 2014; like ''The Seer'', it is a double-disc set containing around two hours of music, and like ''The Seer'', it has been highly acclaimed. It also climbed up to number 37 on the the Billboard 200. The absence of Jarboe (although she does make guest appearances on two songs on ''The Seer'') has altered their sound to an arguably less melodic style.

The band's fourteenth studio album, ''The Glowing Man'', was released on June 17, 2016.

You can now vote for your favourite Swans album by heading over to the [[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/crowner.php/Sandbox/BestAlbumSwans Best Album crowner]].

The current lineup is as follows:

* Michael Gira - guitar, vocals
* Christoph Hahn guitar
* Chris Pravdica bass guitar
* Phil Puleo drums, percussion, dulcimer
* Norman Westberg guitar
* Paul Wallfisch - keyboard
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!! The band exemplifies the following tropes:

* TheAlcoholic: Michael Gira is one (currently in recovery), and wrote "Blind" and "Alcohol the Seed" about it.
* AndNowForSomethingCompletelyDifferent: Repeatedly on ''Soundtracks for the Blind'', most notably with "Volcano", an EDM track about stalking and cannibalism, and "Yum Yab Killers", a live HardcorePunk track.
* AntiLoveSong: "Blackmail" is a particularly subtle and creepy example.
* TheAntiNihilist: While often considered rather bleak and hopeless, Gira has actually refuted the notion that they're only about depression and humankind's failings, with many songs that have some measure of hope despite the majority of their lyrics going into considerable detail about how uncaring and obsessive the world ultimately is.
* ArcWords: "Sun", "skin / flesh", and "love" frequently pop up as song titles or comparing people's desires to these things.
* AwesomeMcCoolname: ''Thor'' Harris. Almost counts as a MeaningfulName, as he's a burly red-haired dude whose role as a percussionist often has him hitting things with hammers.
* BigApplesauce: They hail from NYC and still look to it as a big part of their identity.
* BoleroEffect: They frequently make use of crescendos, especially in their later work. They're probably at least partially responsible for the prevalance of this in PostRock.
* CarefulWithThatAxe: On occasion.
* {{Cloudcuckoolander}}: Michael Gira often comes across as one.
* ClusterFBomb: The last half of "She Loves Us!" from ''To Be Kind''.
** "Apostate" is another good example.
* CoolOldGuy: Pretty much the whole band as of 2012.
* CoverVersion: A handful, notably Music/JoyDivision's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home."
** Gira and Jarboe's side project (The World of) Skin did a few more, such as Julie London's "Cry Me a River" and an [[RearrangeTheSong acoustic version]] of Music/TheStooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
* CreepyMonotone: Whenever Gira does spoken word, it's usually like this.
* DespairEventHorizon: The narrator of "God Damn the Sun" seems to have reached it.
* DroneOfDread: Lots of it on later albums, especially ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' and ''The Seer.''
* EpicRocking: [[UpToEleven Taken to the extreme]] on their 2012 tours. "The Seer," in particular, seems to [[SerialEscalation expand exponentially]] with each new incarnation; the latest version, which forms a medley with two other songs, stretches to a remarkable ''hour and a half''. Their 2014 tour has featured the song "Frankie M," which goes on for nearly an hour each performance. The same goes for "The Knot", which was debuted live on their 2016 tour. On both of these tours, the audience was lucky if seven songs appeared over the course of two-and-a-half hours.
** Songs in their recorded discography that exhibit this trope include: [[note]] This is far from a complete list and arbitrarily includes only examples over ten minutes. [[/note]]
*** ''Public Castration is a Good Idea'': "Money is Flesh" (12:07), "A Hanging" (12:32), and "Another You" (10:16).
*** ''Die Tür ist zu'': "Ligeti's Breath / Hilflos Kind" (22:17).
*** ''Soundtracks for the Blind'': "Helpless Child" (15:48), "Animus" (10:42), "The Sound" (13:12), and "The Final Sacrifice" (10:28).
*** ''Swans Are Dead'': "Feel Happiness" (16:57), "Not Alone" (13:12), "I Crawled" (10:05), "Blood Promise" (15:23), "The Sound" (12:52), and "Helpless Child" (17:52).
*** ''The Seer'': "The Seer" (32:14), "A Piece of the Sky" (19:10), and "The Apostate" (23:01).
*** ''To Be Kind'': "Just a Little Boy (for Chester Burnett)" (12:40), "Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Ouverture" (34:05), "She Loves Us!" (17:01), "Kirsten Supine" (10:33), and "Nathalie Neal" (10:15). There is only one song on the album under seven minutes long, and only two under eight (well, okay, "Oxygen" is 7:59).
*** ''The Glowing Man'': "Cloud of Forgetting" (12:43), "Cloud of Unknowing" (25:12), "The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black" (14:27), "Frankie M." (20:58), "The Glowing Man" (28:50). The album approaches two hours in length despite containing only eight tracks. Even Michael Gira lampshaded the length of the album in an interview, when he said it was "the musical equivalent of ''Film/BenHur'', or Creator/AkiraKurosawa's ''Film/{{Ran}}.''"
* EpicInstrumentalOpener: "A Piece of the Sky", "Apostate" and "Frankie M" all have over 10 minutes of music before any actual singing.
* EvilSoundsDeep: Michael Gira's vocals often sound ''very'' deep and sinister. "The Seer Returns" is a good showcase of this.
* ExtremeDoormat: Uncomfortably [[{{Deconstruction}} deconstructed]] and even [[ZigzaggingTrope zigzagged]] in their early songs. Special credit to [[MindScrew "You Need Me,"]] which manages this in less than two minutes and five lines.
* GenreRoulette: They go all over the place in terms of genre with each album. Post-punk, industrial, post-rock, no wave, neofolk, post-hardcore, and other, less classifiable stuff... Yep, they're not exactly a band that feels like staying in one place for long musically.
** ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' can basically be described as this band's White Album. It's two and a half hours long, has over two dozen tracks, and covers genres ranging from industrial, dark ambient, and post-rock to folk, hardcore punk, and even ''dance music''. It also contains lots of both EpicRocking and MinisculeRocking and frequent MoodWhiplash as well.
* HairRaisingHare: On the cover of ''White Light From the Mouth of Infinity''. It seems to be an AliceAllusion as well.
* HorribleHistoryMetal: "Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'ouverture" is a really bizarre example. It's named after the man responsible for the Haitian Revolution, and the lyrics consist entirely of Michael Gira [[LargeHam screaming]] revolutionary slogans in French, accompanied by various sound effects like panicked horses galloping.
* IAmTheBand: Gira, to an extent.
* IconicItem: Gira's cowboy hat.
* ILoveTheDead: "Not Alone" is a somewhat ambiguous if intensely disturbing example, also "Killing for Company", which is based on a real life SerialKiller.
* IndecipherableLyrics: "Young God" is primarily slurred with some yelling. You can't make out more than ten words, even with the lyrics in front of your face... Though comprehension is ultimately irrelevant, [[ThroughTheEyesOfMadness given the nature of said lyrics]].
* IntentionallyAwkwardTitle: They like this trope a lot. ''Public Castration is a Good Idea'', "Raping a Slave", "You Fucking People Make Me Sick"...
* IntercourseWithYou: "Sealed in Skin" plays this trope for as much discomfort as humanly possible.
* LighterAndSofter: ''The Burning World''.
* LongTitle: ''My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky''.
* LoveMakesYouCrazy: The level of mental instability exhibited in the majority of Swans' relationship songs, particularly early in their career, would make many a {{slasher movie}} director envious.
* LyricalDissonance: Practically a trademark style in their later years.
* MadnessMantra: Many of their lyrics can qualify, but "The Seer" has a particularly good one.
--> "''I see it all I see it all I see it all I see it all I see it all I see it all I see it all...''"
** "Apostate" has numerous repetitions of the phrases "It's not in my mind/[[MindRape get out of my mind]]" and "On a ladder to God."
* MetalScream: Some of their earlier work had this, such as the song "Young God." It still shows up sometimes in their more recent work; "Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Ouverture" and "Nathalie Neal" from ''To Be Kind'' both contain some examples near the end.
* MindScrew: Most of their music, especially on ''Soundtracks for the Blind.''
* MinimalisticCoverArt: Swans often goes for this, especially with the trilogy of ''The Seer'', ''To Be Kind'', and ''The Glowing Man'', each of which features a single image against a blank background (Specifically, a weird creature resembling a fox on ''The Seer'', a crying baby on ''To Be Kind'', and a weird symbol resembling an arm on ''The Glowing Man'').
* MohsScaleOfRockAndMetalHardness: They bounce all around the scale; their acoustic stuff (such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart" or "Failure") probably counts as a 1 or 2, whereas most of ''Cop'' comes in at a hard 9 or higher, and live material from the same era (featured on ''Public Castration is a Good Idea'' amongst other recordings) often hits 10 or even 11. And then there's stuff like ''Love of Life'' in between at about 4, and other stuff like ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' or "Look at Me Go" that [[MindScrew just sits outside of the scale entirely]].
* MohsScaleOfLyricalHardness: In spite of the above, this one more or less stays at a fixed 7+.
* MurderBallad: Many of Jarboe's songs.
* NightmareFace: The cover of ''The Seer'', which features a grinning, beady-eyed fox/wolf thing surrounded by darkness.
* NothingIsScarier: Very frequently, especially on their more ambient work.
* [[NeoclassicalPunkZydecoRockabilly Post-No Wave Baroque Industrial Art Pop]]
* ObsessionSong: A pretty big chunk of their discography could count. "Volcano" is especially disturbing in this respect.
* RapeAsDrama: "When Will I Return?" is based on the actual sexual assault of Michael Gira's wife Jennifer Gira. He wrote the song to help her work through the trauma of the experience, and it's sung almost entirely by her with some backing from Michael.
* RevolvingDoorBand: Their early days had a near-constant flow of departures and inductions. Things have calmed down since then.
* {{Sampling}}: Many songs on ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' contain nightmarish samples of various speakers.
* SanitySlippageSong: "The Apostate."
* SerialKiller: "Young God" and "Killing for Company" are about (and from the perspectives of) ''Ed Gein'' and ''Dennis Nilssen'' respectively.
** According to Gira, "You Fucking People Make Me Sick" is sung from the point of view of a sexually obsessive murderer preying on [[{{Hipster}} attractive scene kids]].
* ShoutOut: The Chester Burnett to whom "Just a Little Boy" is dedicated to is better known as {{blues}} performer Music/HowlinWolf, who is a major influence on recent Swans albums.
** "Kirsten Supine" is inspired by a scene in Creator/LarsVonTrier's ''Film/{{Melancholia}}''.
* SillyLoveSongs: Few and far between, though when they do appear, [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming the results are]] [[CrowningMusicOfAwesome pretty impressive]].
* SongStyleShift: Frequently with their longest tracks. "A Piece of the Sky" goes from ominous drone, to grim post-rock, to wistful country folk over the span of 19 minutes.
* SopranoAndGravel: Jarboe can do this by herself, which is best seen on "I Crawled", where she goes from spoken word, to OneWomanWail, to MetalScream.
* SpokenWordInMusic: Strangely averted, as Gira's singing voice is so deep that on some songs you'd think that he's just monologuing the whole thing.
** PerishingIndieVoice: Also averted.
** PlayedStraight, on "The Most Unfortunate Lie" and "The Seer Returns", as well as several songs on ''Soundtracks for the Blind'' which contain samples of spoken word.
* StalkerWithACrush: "Volcano" and "Not Alone."
* SurprisinglyGentleSong: "In My Garden" and "Song for a Warrior" come to mind. And then there's ''The Burning World'', a surprisingly gentle album. "Blind" is another example, but the beautiful instrumentation is accompanied by some of Gira's most depressing lyrics.
* SurrealHorror: The musical equivalent, especially on ''Soundtracks for the Blind''.
* SurvivalMantra: "I'm alive" is sung repeatedly in "When Will I Return", seemingly to invoke this.
* TakeThat: "All Lined Up" is a particularly vicious one, as is (The World of) Skin's "You'll Never Forget". "You Fucking People Make Me Sick," despite its title, is more subtle.
* TalkativeLoon: The guy sampled on "I Was a Prisoner In Your Skull".
* TextlessAlbumCover: All of their post-reformation albums.
* ThroughTheEyesOfMadness: Frequently.
* TitleDrop: ''Holy Money'' has "A Screw," which (in both versions on the album) contains the repeating line "Holy money, holy love..."
* VillainSong: Several. "Thug" is an unusual [[SecondPersonNarration second-person]] variation.
** "All Lined Up" is a particularly brutal example. "The Seer Returns" and "The Glowing Man" also seem to be examples.
* WordSaladLyrics: "No Words / No Thoughts" is a borderline example, being based on free association, though certain lines seem to characterise it as a VillainSong of sorts.
* {{Yarling}}: Michael Gira's vocal style has slight shades of this. It's far more noticeable on the post-reformation albums.
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