Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns.

Top Albums of the 1970s, Cohort #10

By Mark Abraham & Dom Sinacola · Jun 28, 2013

10. Joan La Barbara:
Tape Songs

(Chiaroscuro; 1977)

Elaine O’Connor Nardo: “It’s not like La Barbara talks like we all talk so much as it is that her experiments are evocative in a way that requires voice. Like, you can’t emote this way with a guitar or a modular, maybe? I dunno; La Barbara seems to take advantage of voice as a shortcut through our brains, building meaning upon the assumptions we already have about what syllables are. It’s impossible to articulate, but that’s also kind of the point of her music, so I guess we’re all caught in her rabbit hole together.”

09. Tom Zé:
Estudando O Samba

(Continental; 1975)

Edna Babish De Fazio: “I like to imagine that Zé lurks at the edges of culture, kidnapping stray ideas and fastening them to some conceptual idea he has, always ready to break down more barriers while simultaneously acting like this particular mixture has always been oh-so-obvious. Zé is the ‘wacky’ tropicália artist, but he’s really only ‘experimental’ because he refuses to let tropicália or samba just be. It has to be bigger, more involved, more articulate, and more encompassing; it has to heave at the edges busting with incoherence; it has to have largesse, an unknowable quality that makes it all the more human.”

08. Carla Bley & Paul Haines:
Escalator Over the Hill

(JCOA; 1971)

Janet Wood: “On paper this project is way too ambitious, which is why it’s even more amazing that it by and large succeeds: free jazz, weird electronics, Don Preston’s beard, a story line that doesn’t make any sense. It’s all mixed in Bley’s blender, a torrent of half-cocked ideas and phenomenal composition masquerading as some weird modern opera. I bet other self-serious musicians were jealous of Bley in the 1970s; she makes all of this seem like such a lark.”

07. Sparks:
Kimono My House

(Island; 1974)

Dwayne Schneider: “Can I just take a moment to lay some anachronism at your feet, folks? I’m from Indianapolis, after all, and we are a city unstuck in time. So: Kimono My House is like the Planet Hollywood of art-pop records. Is that redundant what I just said there? It elevates kitsch unto Heaven. And like the world’s best kitsch, it hates itself as much as it loves to project its rabid insecurities upon an unyielding cultural juggernaut, being the zeitgeist; being fashion, or thin mustaches, or urban blight. I know little in life more extravagant than this. Besides maybe those ‘Love is…’ cartoons, but they are equal in adorableness.”

06. Brigitte Fontaine & Areski Belkacem:
Vout et Nous

(Saravah; 1977)

Edith Bunker: “I can’t help it: whenever Archie starts talking, this is the symphony of calmly crocheted world music unraveling in my head. While it’s a pretty standard antidote to Archie’s bull-headed myopia, so unafraid of being both dainty and creepy—though it could just be creepy because it’s so unfamiliar, exotic even, not a player piano in sight—its title digs deepest into the irrevocably broken state of our marriage. Vous et Nous means ‘you and us’…and by ‘us’ I think of my family, my neighborhood, my friends, everyone but Archie. I suppose there’s an amazing feat to how something so avante-garde could also be, at its heart, a populist record about acceptance and dignity and olive-skinned white people in unisex dashikis. But what’s most striking is that there is no place at all for my husband in all this wonderfully baroque weirdness. Which means there’s no room for him in my brain? I’m not sure. All I know is that when I say his name loudly and shrilly enough to wake the neighbor’s dog, I’m piercing through the mess of feelings I’m mired within to slice, quick and true, through the misery that defines our little island home.”

05. Magma:
Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh

(A&M; 1973)

Vivian Harmon: “I kind of wish Kobaïa actually existed. I would go live their and just bask in all of this complicated sound. Is that how they talk to each other? Is it always a musical but also an apocalypse at the end of every act? Are there always prophecies and gorgeous jazz breakdowns and rhythm sections that can only be described as sounding ‘martial’? Is that what life is like there? They sound like a beautiful people. Self-possessed. Articulate. I think they’d understand how amazing I am.”

04. Wire:
Chairs Missing

(EMI; 1978)

Fred Sanford: “Listen, Elizabeth, honey. This world is shit. It’s toothless but guileless; Gawd: it’s ugly. The “G” is for “gangrene.” And lordy does it smell. Which I think these guys know, and intimately at that. So they make music that is mesh, a colander, a screen door, sifting out all the guano that stinks up our poor streets. Chairs Missing is the sediment I deal with every single day. I’m a professional at this kind of stuff. And I know heroes when I see ‘em.”

03. Slits:

(Antilles; 1979)

Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa: “The Slits proved that a nickname never had to make sense so much as just carry the perfect ring to it. Or that words, instruments, and anatomy could be used in the same way, which meant dicing up traditional structures of power with as little respect and technical prowess as possible. With almost no shame. To just go ahead and chop that shit up and pull that shit down—whatever that shit actually is, as long as it’s oppressive and no fun—but not be an obnoxious asshole about it. When I spun this record for Shirl she broke up with me on the spot; she later said, once we’d gotten back together, that she just liked how the words felt fleeing her mouth.”

02. Joni Mitchell:
The Hissing of Summer Lawns

(Asylum; 1975)

Sherman Tecumseh Potter: “This isn’t a record album. It’s like the culture of a whole new nation. Mitchell’s control of her aesthetic here is masterful, embalming jazz fusion flourishes and other random ideas inside the amber of a now fully-fleshed out sound. It’s the perfect surgery of folk music, in my estimation. It’s a perfect encapsulation of a moment in time.”

01. Art Bears:
Winter Songs

(Ralph; 1979)

Joanie Cunningham Arcola: “I think it sounds like what I assume the other end of a black hole must sound like. Beautiful, and slightly spicy. Like sleeping in the folds of a banana peel. Which is how I describe snuggling with my husband, incidentally.”

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