Since the mid 90's, when I was hanging out with Dave Leicht a lot, I've awarded some album (yeah, I don't listen to playlists. I listen to albums) "Album of the Year" status, for whatever album I either listened to the most, or just found to be the most transformational in how I listen to and hear music.
The album most certainly does not have to have been released for the first time this year--music history is too good for that kind of limitation. This award is totally egocentric for me: it's about the album I discover, in the year I discover it.
This year's winner seems to be Stone Flower by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I got into it because it has an awesome version of "Aquarela do Brasil" which was steady enough for me to practice pandeiro along with. The rhythm is heavy on the Samba side of Bossa, and the track is over seven minutes long, which made it an ideal basic Samba workout. But the rest of the album is amazing too.
So, congratulations, Sr. Jobim. I have anointed you (as if you needed it.)