73. Sufjan Stevens, Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre, 2004)

Not even halfway into the year, and I've already found a record that resonates with me enough for it to deserve a place on this list. Possibly the best album I've received to review for Splendid, Seven Swans is a gorgeous, shy, deceptively simple-sounding set of songs about love and faith, although not necessarily in that order. The religious content might put off some, but this delicate-voiced, nearly unclassifiable singer/songwriter explores and exults more than he preaches. Hushed, lovely songs like "To Be Alone With You" emerge as fascinating puzzles, revealing layers of lyrical contradictions. Others merely feature musical layers, one placed on top of another until they coalesce and swell like a full-blown choir minus the bombast. It's not enough to make me a believer (not even Al Green could do that for me at this point), but I don't think anyone could deny these strong melodies or Stevens' childlike awe (or even his banjo playing).