Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two

5. Swans
To Be Kind
(Young God)

Thirteen reasons to listen to Swans' To Be Kind: 1. The fact that more than 30 years into their career, Michael Gira and company are just as sonically confrontational as ever. 2. That despite the earth-shaking intensity of all that noise, the tunes on To Be Kind are actually pretty catchy. 3. The pristine engineering by John Congleton, which captures the violent musical assault in high-definition. 4. The ring of the snare drum throughout the beginning of "Screen Shot." 5. Gira's protracted howls of "looooooove" beginning at the six-minute mark of "Just A Little Boy." 6. The slinking groove and menacing atmosphere of "Just A Little Boy," which sounds like a lost Birthday Party tune. 7. The sustained bombast that introduces "Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Overture." 8. The fact that there's a song about Haitian revolutionary leader François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, whose nickname was the Black Napoleon. 9. "Some Things We Do," a necessary breather of a tune in the middle of all these massive songs. 10. The way St. Vincent's angelic voice pairs with Gira's sonorous baritone on "Kristen Supine." 11. The way Gira pronounces "ock-SEE-jaaaaaaaan" on "Oxygen." 12. The lock-step bass guitar/kick drum rhythm that propels "Nathalie Neal." 13. The final feedback-laden thrust of album closer "To Be Kind" — a cathartic conclusion to an overwhelming listening experience. (Chris Bilton)