Long-running avant-rock bludgeoneers Swans completed their 13th studio album, To Be Kind, by working 12 to 14-hour days in a studio just outside El Paso, Texas. "The music, it just has to be right, so I don't give up," frontman Michael Gira says about his grueling schedule. "It's fear of failure." Like the group's Homeric last album, 2012's The Seer, To Be Kind will punish and reward listeners for more than two hours. But Gira says there will be the occasional respite. "Some songs are quite melodic," Gira says, "and the emotions are not so severe." To help lighten the load and the mood, Gira enlisted some guest singers for the album, including St. Vincent's Annie Clark ("a very nice person, I might add") and cabaret singer Little Annie. The latter sings on a lighter track called "Some Things We Do," which sports orchestral strings. Gira says the aforementioned song is literally "a list of things that human beings do" but stops short when asked what his mood was when writing it. In typical Gira fashion, he only admits to having, "wild and unpredictable mood shifts."