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Quick Hits: Deniz Cuylan / Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders / Lazerbeak

Deniz CuylanRings of JuniperCuylan is a composer who plays nylon-stringed guitar. This collection of seven pieces is one of those albums that unfolds over time. I’ve been listening to the mysterious, enigmatic work for months, and only in the last few weeks have I been able to really say anything about it. It reminds me of the game Myst–I had no idea what was going on when I first showed up, but it’s beautiful, and there are lots of things to discover.

“Hidden Language of Four” has unique rhythmic patterns; “Swimmers” has an evocative, memorable melody that is intertwined between guitar and piano; “Clouds Over Sintra” bustles and bristles with storm-on-the-horizon energy. Each of these pieces have fascinating elements. Highly recommended.

Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders – The Electric RiverI expected opener “Love & Other Vaccines” to be cynical and surrealist indie rock, as much Matthew Squires work is. But, uh, it’s actually about love? Matthew Squires wrote a love song. (It is a little surrealist; he can’t escape that.) “Felt Like Your Man” and “The Life of Trees” are also love songs! So is “The Ballad of Norm MacDonald”!

Actually just kidding, “Norm MacDonald” is unfiltered and unfettered vintage Squires: “suddenly, a vision appeared from the flames / it was Norm MacDonald.” (“MacDonald” spools out a enigmatic, oracle-esque vision for the rest of the song.) If you’re into fractured indie rock (now with more love songs), Squires is at the top of his game. (And his game is pretty close to the top of the game overall.) Highly recommended.

Lazerbeak – Lava Bangers II. Here’s a massively propulsive, punchy, no-filler collection of 20 beats that seamlessly merge hip-hop and electro jams. This has been my go-to for motivational music since I first heard it. Opener “Inner Winner” rips, “In My Cups” leans into the boom-bap side of things, “Ferocious Porches” has ’90s party-jam vibes, and “Son, Even Nolan Ryan Has His Bad Days” has my vote for favorite song title of the year. (The sped-up R&B vibes are great on that one too.) Highly recommended.