2. The Seer (2012)
No band should be this strong in their third decade. It defies all conventional logic -- just another act of Swans defiance, it seems. After the strong-but-not-quite-great 2010 album My Father Will Guide Me… it was hard to imagine Swans making something this powerful. The Seer dispenses with the folkiness of Angels Of Light in favor of epic sprawl. This is the second of their true double albums, only slightly shorter than Soundtracks For The Blind. For an 11-track record that lasts more than two hours -- including two 20-minute tracks and one that stretches to an eye-watering 32 minutes -- it never lags. Rather, it soars consistently, roughly encapsulating just about everything the band has ever done while inventing a new strain of apocalyptic drone. Where the kaleidoscopic Soundtracks For The Blind felt like the work of a demented auteur locked away in a room, The Seer feels very much like the product of a band at the height of its powers. Guitars are the driving force as the band turns back to the weight of the early years, while folding in the delicacy of Gira's Angels Of Light. And Jarboe returns! Finally! (If only for two songs.) In interviews, Gira has called this the culmination of everything he's done across 30 years, and it absolutely sounds like it. You get pounding post-punk exercises like "Mother Of The World," the screeching noise of "93 Ave. B Blues", a Karen O-sung acoustic ballad, "Song for a Warrior", and the astonishing 30-minute crush of the title track. Let's hope there's more where this came from.