A pioneering work in terms of its blurring of diegetic and nondiegetic sound, that film is also the great prototype for Todd Haynes's Safe, in which malaise-ridden Antonioni muse Monica Vitti utters the great line "My hair hurts." (Johnny Ray Huston)
A letter of exile from London in the wake of months of unjust imprisonment imposed by the Brazilian government, this English-language recording possesses a warmth and sensitivity one wouldn't expect from someone who'd been through Gil's trials. But Gil rarely made a show of his anger, usually expressing it through pointed spoken or written words or musical metaphor. A sublime example here of the last is the cover of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," on which the Tropicalista leader's voice is pure, refreshing, and vibrant while singing words of solitude and alienation. Elsewhere, his pop folk makes time for Volkswagen blues, shampoo chats, mushroom trips, and existential thoughts about Kodak moments. (Huston)
A lightly sparkling hoot, "Everybody's Talkin' " made famous by Harry Nilsson when Fred Neil refused to rerecord it for Midnight Cowboy may be the biggest commercial hit on this album, but the first track, "The Dolphins," is the real, pulsating heart of this wonderful disc. The narcotic serenade to those lucky enough to escape into the wild yonder was memorably nicked for the last season of The Sopranos and encapsulates this Piscean songwriter's lifelong identification with the sea creatures. The flighty Neil needed to be gentled into the studio by producer Nik Venet and harbored among friendly foils to produce this remarkably organic, mostly live recording, which brought out the best blues-folk writing from the rarely bottled artist. (Chun)
Aside from her femme fatalism with the Velvet Underground, Nico might be best known musically for the one-of-a-kind Teutonic Californian frisson of her pairing with Jackson Browne on 1967's Chelsea Girl. But the VU's John Cale was her right-hand man for most of her career, right on through to the practically postmortem version of "My Funny Valentine" on 1985's Camera Obscura. This 1970 collaboration includes the layered psychedelia of the title track (on which spoken interludes add extra layers in a manner many indie rockers have imitated), the ballad "Afraid" (addressed narcissistically to herself or forebodingly to her son, Ari?), and of course the one and only "Janitor of Lunacy," which mopped the floors for generations of goths to come. Two tracks here were featured in La Cicatrice Intérieure, a film by Philippe Garrel. (Huston)
Sauntering the line between camp and cool with winking menace, the Shane star takes his opportunity to coin a few memorable countryisms in the absurdist, Marty Robbinsesque "The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived." "I ruled like a king and they / All did my thing / 'Cause the foot was in the other / Shoe, shoe, shoe / 'Cause the foot was in the other shoe," Palance sing-snarls, laying into those "shoe"s like a deranged Shangri-la with rabies. Aided and abetted by lush production from exHank Williams bassist and Nashville publishing czar Buddy Killen, Palance gets to really sink his actorly teeth into the juicy, who's-sorry-now melodrama of Dottie West's "Hannah." (Chun)
THE SOFT MACHINE
The Soft Machine
Albums so wide and deep they threaten to engulf you with their sheer twists, teetering turns, and utter invention.