12. The Burning World (1989)
It's telling that the worst album Swans ever released is by far their most accessible. It says even more that it's nowhere close to bad. This was the lone major label album, and it left a bad taste with Michael Gira for the rest of his career. After Children Of God, Swans needed a sea change. Fully embracing the dark Americana they flirted with on Children and ditching the heaviness altogether, The Burning World made a certain kind of sense coming from a mainstream label. At no point will this hurt your ears. Songs occasionally sound like The National due to Gira's restrained baritone, despite predating that band by a full decade. But it was ultimately a poor match between newly light songwriting and too-thin, too-precious production from Bill Laswell that sealed the album's fate. In Gira's own words, years later: "I abhor that record." Which is a very Gira thing to say. He undersells it by a long way: Burning World merely misses the mark in comparison to the heights they'd achieve elsewhere. "God Damn the Sun" is still one of the best things they'd ever write.