Along with the more obvious Blue, this is Joni's most career defining record. Whilst the former perfected her internal, almost confessional work, The Hissing of Summer Lawns epitomises her role as observer, or even satirist, and her musicianship. Broadly speaking it is a concept album that juxtaposes the human, the animal, and the spiritual in a dense series of portraits of - mostly - Californian life. Think of David Lynch movies and you get a little bit of an idea - the title refers to the hiss of sprinklers on grass, the keeping up of appearances, repressing of darker desires... you get the picture. Elsewhere she explores drug cultures and exploitation (The Jungle Line and Edith & The Kingpin), suburban desperation (the title track, Harry's House) and ruminates on what it all means (the two closers). Throughout her lyricism, once sparse and raw, is lush and layered with imagery - Shades of Scarlett Conquering (a sharp look at a young socialite) both sounds like something from Hollywood's golden age and looks/reads like it e.g. "with her impossibly gentle hands and her blood red fingernails". The depth of playing with a small team of musicians and engineer Henry Lewy never falters - varyingly paced with layers of latin, jazz, and african influences co-existing alongside Joni's own keyboard and guitar work. It's an album that rewards almost constant playing year on year, never failing to reveal more light, more shade. Not only important for Mitchell but a landmark in modern music.