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When we last heard from Calgary's Astral Swans, they had just released All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson, one of our favorite albums of 2015. Three years later, Matthew Swann and his beautiful project are back with Strange Prison, a new full length produced by Scott Munro of Preoccupations. Lead single "What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself" reintroduced us to the sparse and spectacular world of Swann's songwriting. His gentle vocals are soft but confident, singing with a hazy sort of dejection, offering lines like, "when I finally get a chance, make the same mistakes again". The song's gorgeous backdrop of acoustic guitars, simplistic yet effective rhythms, and the breezy whir of electronics create a heavenly soundscape for Swann to ponder it all. - Dan Goldin


Beatroute: Astral Swans - Dark complexities, beauty in sight

Friday 11th, May 2018 - In the three years since releasing his debut as Astral Swans, Calgary’s Matthew Swann has been busy. Touring Canada twice following the release of 2015’s All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson, once in support of Dan Mangan, and a second time playing a series of more intimate shows in alternative venues, from art galleries to microbreweries.

He has since settled into completing a follow-up recording, Strange Prison, with co-production by Paul Chirka a recording engineer who’s worked with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Juno-winning Dan Mangan and Scott Munro of Preoccupations.


March 13, 2018 - No one does self-deconstruction quite like Matthew Swann. ... “What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself” finds Swann continuing to craft finely drawn character studies for his next album, Strange Prison, due out later this year. “At one point, I wanted to call this album Fear Myself,” he shared with me via email last week, “I used to have a Daniel Johnston t-shirt that said ‘fear yourself/love your enemy’, which was from the record Fear Thyself that he did with Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse). I always thought that was solid advice.”


THEYYSCENE: Hear the first single from Calgary artist Astral Swans’ forthcoming album

March 12, 2018 - You need a Monday pick-me-up?

Of course you do.

Ice cream? Beer?

All good.

But along with that, how ’bout some new music via local genius Matthew Swann (a.k.a. Astral Swans)?

The bedsit psych folkster is getting set to release his sophomore album Strange Prison on May 18th via hometown label Saved By Radio, which is run by the ridiculously wonderful local scene booster Dawn Loucks. It will also see the light of day in Tokyo thanks to Moorworks and in the Netherlands at the hands of Tiny Room Records.


August 4, 2018 - Although the two tracks just mentioned are a good representation of Astral Swan’s “sound”, Swann doesn’t limit himself style-wise. “Controls” introduces a kind of future-gospel vibe in the chorus, while “Sew Their Mouths” veers into americana territory (although of the very dark and strange variety). He also makes judicious use of guest musicians, featuring the likes of Dan Mangan and Tigerwing sparingly but in key roles (Mangan, for example, is prominent in that gospel chorus in “Controls”).


Calgary Herald: Inside Out - Calgary's Astral Swans expands on intimate sound with sophomore release

May 12, 2018 - Matthew Swann wastes no time setting a mood on Strange Prison, the sophomore record released under his Astral Swans moniker.

A troubled mindset is succinctly established in the opening line on the album’s opening track, Blow Up. Against glacier-paced organ and acoustic guitar, Swann softly and slowly sings: “I had a dream in which I killed all of my friends.”

“It definitely hits you from the start,” says the Calgary singer-songwriter with a laugh.

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PASTE, Daily Dose: Astral Swans, "What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself"

March 12, 2018 - From the forthcoming Strange Prison LP, produced by Scott Munro of Preoccupations.

Calgary songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Swann, aka Astral Swans, will release his sophomore album, Strange Prison, on May 18. “Despite these songs dealing with hard themes of pain, alienation, and our limitations, the end objective is finding beauty to transcend the shittiness of the world,” Swann says.

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March 13, 2018 - ... Lyrically, ‘Strange Prison’ recalls ’90s lo-fi indie-rockers Bill Callahan and Cat Power, the fragile intimacy of ’60s folk singers Sibylle Baier and Nick Drake, and the inner world-building of Syd Barrett and Daniel Johnston. Swann credits the album’s expressionistic sound painting with an unexpected inspiration from Sly Stone’s early ’70s drug-fueled recordings (There’s a Riot Going On, Fresh, etc.), which he calls “masterpieces of weird production where nothing is used properly.”

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January 4, 2019 -The domain of Calgary singer-songwriter Matthew Swann, Astral Swans’ sophomore release Strange Prison is a brilliant and often unsettling collection of songs that reflect the writer’s occasionally troubled “state of mind.” But Swann looks inward and outward at an equally troubled world, offering an intimate, wise and often surprisingly catchy revue of subtle and dreamy guitar-pop.


Great Dark Wonder: Top Ten Album List

December 24 2018 - Between my two writing gigs and my own personal record collecting, I’ve probably listened to a hundred albums released this year. 2018 has been a year full of beautiful discoveries, and solid returns to greatness. I was quickly drawn to some, while others needed to steep in the pot of my brain for a bit before fully understood and enjoyed. Of great importance to me when listening is understanding the purpose of the art. The “who,” “where” or “how” is not as important as the “why,” and of course, the finished work of art


Jul 27, 2018 - Calgary band Astral Swans drops by the q studio to perform some new music from their latest record Strange Prison, which is out now.

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CBC R3 “Controls” #1

July 9, 2018 -Calgary's Astral Swans reach the top spot with "Controls" from its latest release Strange Prison. The album came out on May 18 and, coincidentally, was co-produced by our highest debuting artist Dan Mangan.


TheYYSCENE: Astral Swans finds light in dark places for his brilliant sophomore album Strange Prison

May 17, 2018 - Dark places.

Matthew Swann knows about them.

And he’s not afraid to show you them, take you to them.

It’s very much a part of his musical project Astral Swans and the psych-folk songs he writes: those that haunted his phenomenal 2015 lo-fi debut All My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson; and the ones that swallow you whole on his astounding new hi-fi — or, more appropriately, high-fi — followup, Strange Prison.

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exclaim!: Astral Swans Returns with 'Strange Prison'

March 12, 2018 - After delivering All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson back in 2015, Calgary songwriter Matthew Swann has lifted the curtain on his sophomore follow-up as Astral Swans.

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February 25, 2015 - There’s nothing like being the first.

Good or bad, you’re given the opportunity to set the tone for what’s to come, what can be expected and all that will follow.

Which makes Calgary artist Matthew Swann’s new album recorded under his Astral Swans moniker all the more notable and exciting.


May 7, 2018 - If the first album was a home run, Strange Prison is a grand slam. My expectations were high, but somehow this LP exceeded those expectations. It is weirder, it is catchier, it is sadder, and it is even more psychedelic than the first LP. Matthew Swann has raised the bar on himself and the music he creates.


May 28, 2018 - If Strange Prison has a weakness, it's that the songs are so quietly humble that it's possible for the whole thing to breeze by without ever making much of an impression. Give it your full attention, however, and it offers understated rewards.

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Tiny Mix Tapes: Astral Swans - “Controls”

April 17, 2018 - The moment you’re pleasantly settled into the smoke-curling groove of Astral Swans “Controls” - then realize the song is about a plane crash. Faultless rock & roll haunted by an aviation disaster context is cause to rate “Controls” high on the Buddy Holly Scale. But we’re ok, it’s a crash-as-metaphor.


ION: Astral Swans Release New Video

March 13, 2018 - The Internet is practically synonymous with cats at this point. Countless memes, Instagram accounts and Facebook posts are devoted to those lovable little buddies. Yesterday, Calgary based artist Astral Swans announced the release of his new album Strange Prison with a delightful little video starring one of the cutest little kittens you ever saw.


February 23, 2015 - Matthew Swann talks about the troubling charm of Willie Nelson on the new album 'All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson'.


March 19th, 2014 - Matthew Swann lives in Calgary, but when the debut LP by his latest project, Astral Swans, comes out in the fall, it’s bound to get a lot of attention on the West Coast. That’s because it will be the first full-length release from Madic Records, the new label run by local hero Dan Mangan (with a little help from his friends at Arts & Crafts).

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January 4, 2019  - Matthew Swann remains one of this city’s, no, country’s, most enigmatic and beautifully bleak psych-folk poets. His second full-length is another astoundingly, confoundingly dreamy descent into the darkness of a psyche that turns mental torment into something that awes, inspires, elevates and leaves a mark on your heart.

The first three songs alone — Blow Away, Controls and What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself — are enough to cement his songwriting genius. In an alternate and much better universe, Astral Swans is a goddamn superstar.


Great Dark Wonder: Sparkling, Ephemeral Sounds Orbit The Simple Uncomplicated Beauty Of Astral Swans’ Latest Release

August 16 2018 - To say this is a diversely symphonic album is an understatement…  strings, theremins, keyboards and vocal harmonies each make exceptional accompaniment at various times.  This is full-on, studio perfected production… I mean … listening to the title track “Strange Prison” is like an all you can eat buffet for your ears. But more flavourful than that. 

“What Are You Gonna Do With Yourself” has a chorus that makes you want to close your eyes and quietly sing along to. “Prison Builder” begins with as a simple acoustic guitar shuffle but, ends with a feedback guitar freak-out; blemishes included… awesome.