No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically unconventional and probably features quite...

With wide-reaching arms and hungry ears, each of our writers has compiled his or her top albums of the year, for you to peruse our eclectic, atypical, and only occasionally overlapping tastes. You'd be well-served to check out every single record here.
Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, electronic Troy Micheau - metal, electronic, experimental, ambient Jason Simpson - pop, soul, electronic, ambient Ian King - electronic, ambient, instrumental, pop Peter Woodburn - ambient, metal, garage, indie Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, hip-hop Albums of the Year 2014
Orcas - Yearling Album Review
Yearling, the second album from Orcas -- the collaboration of Thomas Meluch, better known as Benoît Pioulard, and Rafael Anton Irissari, who also makes graceful ambient shoegaze under the name The Sight Below -- seems very intent on a time and a place. In this case, a summer in Germany, where most of these songs were written. To shift between subject and setting, Yearling switches between ambient drift and yearning ambient pop, with plaintive vocals courtesy of Pioulard. This can be seen most evidently in the one-two punch of album openers "Petrichor" and "Infinite Stillness", the former being a glowing nimbus of field recordings and swelling organs that sound like the backlit tree on the album cover, and "Infinite Stillness" being a piece of epic now wave splendour, with solid, stately drum machines and a plodding bassline and the first appearance of Pioulard's angelic vocals, that brings to mind the best era of The Cure. With a couple exceptions, this more song-oriented approach is a new feature of Orcas', whose self-titled debut was more focused on improvisation and ambiance. Most of Yearling was already written in the summer of 2012, and having a backbone to work off allows the music to be both loose and organic while still being tight, controlled, and ultimately, more human and more personal than any of the participants' solo careers.
Drawing from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and one of the area's most majestic creatures, Rafael Anton Irisarri of The Sight Below and Thomas Meluch of Benoît Pioulard have breathed life into a new project, Orcas. On their debut self-titled disc, the two have created nine tracks of ambiance-heavy songs featuring a number of opposing elements, including light and dark, acoustic and electronic, textured subtlety and straight-forward hook. In that spirit of balance, this bilateral feature places side-by-side interview responses and sample tracks from both artists, to dissect the strengths, weaknesses, and sonic tendencies both musicians contribute to making Orcas the rich collaboration that it is.

Benoît Pioulard

"Sault" from Lasted Where Irisarri's soundscapes lay a gentle foundation for the work of Orcas, Meluch's work as Benoît Pioulard provides more accessible and structural elements, complete with singer-songwriter pop melodies. "Sault," from Benoît Pioulard's album Lasted, has guitar and vocal tendencies that connect to the piano and guitar lines of "Arrow Drawn," which is streaming below.

Rafael Anton Irisarri

"A Great Northern Sigh" from The North Bend As The Sight Below, Rafael Anton Irisarri's compositions rebuild familiar emotions and spaces by way of minimal electronic soundscapes. According to Irisarri, "A Great Northern Sigh" has conceptual and thematic ties to the work of Orcas, as it also relates to the Pacific Northwest. "Almost like an audio postcard," he adds. "What can I say -- I'm deeply inspired by this region and wouldn't imagine composing our Orcas album anywhere else."

 

SPECTRAL HYPNOSIS A recurring series, featuring mesmerizing songs for one to lose sense of time and space, mind and body. Orcas - Orcas Two Pacific Northwest musicians -- electronic-minded singer-songwriter Benoit Pioulard and minimal composer Rafael Anton Irisarri (of The Sight Below) -- have gotten together for the aptly-named Orcas. Their upcoming self-titled...