#15. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Label: Jagjaguwar (US)/4AD (Europe)
Released: June 21
Following up an album as unique as For Emma, Forever Ago seemed almost impossible. It was loved almost as much for the story behind it as for the music it contained.
Since that 2007 release, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has skyrocketed to new levels of fame. The guy went from recording in a Wisconsin cabin to studio sessions with Kanye West and sold-out shows across the country.
Replicating the original sound would have felt forced and insincere, so the sophomore album expands into new territory. The music is still soft and intimate for the most part, but this album sounds larger than anything from the debut. It's smoother, cleaner, more ambitious, and while it may not be better, it's still one of the best albums of the year.