Astral Swans - "Beginning of the End" (video) (Premiere)

by Brice Ezell

26 January 2015

Low-key bluesiness defines "Beginning of the End", a track by the Canadian folk project Astral Swans, which arose from a disturbing case of seagull cannibalism.

The Calgary, Alberta-based singer/songwriter Matthew Swann, who goes by the artistic moniker Astral Swans, declares on the title of his new LP that All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson. Though that influence does crop up throughout the record, it’s also hard to imagine that legendary country singer warbling out lines such as, “Who told the kids in the yard that they¹re mostly dust? / Now they just stay drunk / Keep getting more fucked up”. Such cynicism about the world is an undercurrent throughout All My Favorite Singers, particularly on the song from which the aforementioned lyrics come from, “Beginning of the End”. The track, built on a basic blues structure, incorporates scratchy bits of distortion amidst Swann’s bleak musings, which derive from an act of violence within nature. To hear more about this morbid story and to stream “Beginning of the End”, read and listen more below.
Swann explains, “I wrote ‘Beginning Of The End’ when I was in Edinburgh, alone in a tiny hostel room. I had landed in London a couple of days prior at 8AM, after having been up for 24 plus straight hours. I was walking across a bridge over the Thames, in a bit of a delirium, and on one side of the bridge, on this ledge beside the railing, there was a seagull, eating the half dead body of another seagull. It was nightmarish; its slurped the neck vein up like it was spaghetti, with its emotionless bird face. I imagined ‘and I think to myself… what a wonderful world’ playing in the background with this scene happening in slow motion. The image haunted the hell out of me, and when I got to Edinburgh, I wrote this sorta upbeat pop song over these nihilistic lyrics, about the denial of death, etc. I presented the song to Mike [Peterson, director], and he constructed a narrative with a similar contrast between upbeat and playful, and nihilistic and dark. He cites Michael Haneke and JG Ballard as influences for this one. Me, I just cite those damn seagulls, and the detached cruelty of nature.”

All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson is out on 24 February through Madic Records (via Arts & Crafts).

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