Prefix Magazine has my favorite best-of-this-past-year list, both in terms of the unknown artists (artists unknown to me), its streaming music format, and its seamlessly neat design.
Joanna Newsom's Ys (Drag City) is near the top of every list I've found.
"Folk meets classical in this second album from harpist extraordinaire
Joanna Newsom, who in addition to her own colossal talents recruits a number of valuable collaborators, including a full orchestra arranged by Van Dyke Parks on four of five tracks and production from Steve Albini. Newsom's harp playing perfectly complements her lyrics, which travel in allegory and mythology while remaining both poetic and full of whimsy, and offbeat vocal style, which is both childlike and mature beyond its years. Without knowing anything in advance, it would have been impossible to tell what time period this album came from, a tribute to its rejection of current trends and a guarantee of its timelessness. ~Chris Sahl"