I always have difficulty when coming up with these lists because there are often albums I’ve enjoyed that I’m forced to leave out. When I had the current mid-year list down to 25, I thought about bucking my yearly tradition of 20 and upping it to 25. Then, I recollected a long forgotten high school memory. During my junior year, our basketball coach had a decision along the same lines – with 10 returning seniors and a strong incoming Junior class of 10 quality players, he had to make cuts in order to meet the roster limit of 15. Instead of manning up and just cutting some of the old players or telling some Juniors to take a year off, he let the extra five Juniors (one of them being me) stay on the team as kind of a practice team. This would turn out horribly with our group of five often feeling outcast and forgotten, and by seasons end, we’d named ourselves The Bullheads (because in Iowa, a catfish isn’t considered a keeper). I decided that, yes, there are some great albums on the outside looking in this year, but at the same time, including them would water down my already loaded list. 2013 is off to a great start musically, and here are my “Top 20 Favorite Albums” so far (no bullheads included: i.e. Daft Punk).
[Dead Oceans; 2013]
When Phosphorescent first broke onto the indie-folk scene in 2003, comparisons to Bob Dylan were a given with Matthew Houck’s knack for writing imagery-laced lyrics over jangly guitars, hints of Freewheelin’ Bob abound. 10-years later with his latest release Muchacho, Houck is still redefining one of Bob’s concoctions, but this time around his inspiration comes from a much different section of Dylan’s cookbook. No, it’s not country-fried Nashville Skyline nor is it the late night munchie snack of Blonde On Blonde. Instead, Muchacho takes on the essence of the seminal Infidels.
In late 1983, Infidels was heralded as Bob’s return from grace (a return from the “grace of God” in this case after two panned “religious albums”). Infidels is often considered his best album since 1975’s Blood On the Tracks. The album marked a definitive change in Bob’s approach. Rather than strumming away on his acoustic like he’d done for the better part of the past two decades, Bob stepped back and allowed the organs and synths to broaden space and time. With Mark Knopfler fiddling around on his guitar, the songs often feel spacious and airy. Of all of his albums, Infidels is his most 80s album to come out in the decade of post punk and new wave.