Subjective tropes associated with Swans and their music include:
- Archive Panic: Finding what song came from where in what version can be maddening to the dedicated fan.
- Creepy Awesome: Too many songs to choose from, but the entirety of the albums The Seer, To Be Kind, and especially Soundtracks for the Blind stand out.
- Crosses the Line Twice: The ballistic hardcore punk tribute "Freak" on Filth definitely qualifies, as do the monologue on "I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" and the boisterously gruesome lyrics to "Reeling The Liars In."
- Crowning Music of Awesome: Lots of it.
- Some highlights: Their most ambitious (and, probably, best) studio material can be found on Soundtracks for the Blind, The Seer, and To Be Kind. Amongst their live material, Swans Are Dead is two hours and twenty-three minutes and all of it is amazing. The Great Annihilator, White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, and Children of God are particularly noteworthy works as well.
- Ear Worm: "Celebrity Lifestyle" is particularly noteworthy in this respect.
- Epic Riff: "Raping a Slave" and "The Sound," in completely different ways.
- Face of the Band: Both Jarboe and Gira.
- He Really Can Sing In Audible Octaves: Gira on Children Of God and especially Love Will Tear Us Apart.
- Magnum Opus: Gira seems to regard The Seer as this, and sizeable portions of both rock critics and the fanbase seem to agree. The fact that it got 9.0 and Best New Music on Pitchfork has probably helped expose the band to a lot of new listeners. Before that, Soundtracks for the Blind was generally regarded as their Magnum Opus.
- Consensus on To Be Kind seems to be that it's an Even Better Sequel, or at least, every bit as good as The Seer.
- Nausea Fuel: "Your Game" on Body to Body, Job to Job.
- The lyrics are Gira reciting a short story he wrote, later to be published in his book The Consumer, filled with other equally disgusting and disturbing stories.
- Nightmare Fuel: Have their own page.
- No Hit Wonder: Were this for many years, despite moderate acclaim and a cult following. After their 2010 reunion, this was finally overcome when To Be Kind hit #37 on the Billboard 200 in 2014. Now, with three hugely acclaimed albums and even a hit one, they seem to have hit more Mainstream Obscurity status.
- Signature Song: "Cop", "I Crawled", "Children of God", and "Blind" all held this distinction, but as of 2014, "A Little God in my Hands" has a slight edge in this race.
- Paranoia Fuel: "Not Alone" from Swans Are Dead, most of Soundtracks for the Blind, the interludes from Love of Life, "Look at Me Go"...
- Tearjerker: Often, the most famous being "God Damn the Sun."
No, I was never young,
- The final chorus to "Blind:"
and nothing has transpired,
and when I look in the mirror,
I feel dead,
I feel cold,
I am blind.
- There's also "Helpless Child," which can drive pretty much anyone to suicidal ideations. The triumphant, roaring ending crescendo of the song can either make it even more depressing or uplifting, depending on your point of view.
- "The Sound," which begins with a downcast vocal section by Michael Gira before transitioning into a breathtakingly beautiful crescendo also stands out, and is one of the more famous tearjerkers in the band's discography.
- "Song for a Warrior," a Surprisingly Gentle Song that provides a much needed reprieve in the middle of all the darkness of The Seer. "A Piece of the Sky" also qualifies.