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Another year has passed since I last made some music recommendations. So here goes…

That people are out there tracking down strange, amazing, otherwise-impossible-to-find things and showing them to the world is probably what I love most about living in the internet age. But what was new in 2011 for me was that much of the music that thrilled me this year reached me in the form of compilations.

Independent music suppliers Boomkat are brilliant at finding and recommending music. Their compilation site 14Tracks has been an absolute highlight of my year

Every week brings a new themed selection – always interesting, sometimes nothing short of stunning. If you’ve time to spare (warning! it’s addictive!) check out the 14Tracks back catalogue: it’s full of treasure. Examples? Concrete Phantoms collects jaw-dropping experimental music from back when sampling was done by splicing tape: I’d read about this music but had no idea how to go about hearing it, so I was (and continue to be) astonished and delighted by that one. Other 14Tracks favourites of mine include the teeth-whiteningly awesome industrial racket of No Hat, No Boots = No Job, and whenever I want to feel like I’m in a seedy Italian horror movie – which is often – A Giallo Thriller has me covered.

Despite the blow of losing most of their stock in a warehouse fire during the looting in the UK back in August, self-styled ‘B-Music Specialists’ Finders Keepers Records continued to dazzle me this year. I already loved their perfectly-preserved pick of ’60s/’70s Persian pop, Pomegranates, and lots of other musical goodies from them besides. But then came this…

Bollywood Bloodbath is blinding. That’s all I’m going to say. Hit this link and hear for yourself. :D

My third and final compilation recommendation comes in the form of a book: Seasons They Change, by Jeanette Leech

With the passion of a fan – but also with the precision of someone determined to do right by its creators – this book introduced me to a world of great music that I’d known next to nothing about. New favourites for me now found through Seasons They Change include this, and this, and this! For further details on this excellent book and a link to an accompanying Spotify playlist by the author, click here.

What amazing music am I going to hear for the first time in 2012? Here’s looking forward to finding out. Hee hee hee!

Sam

I saw the first reports on Twitter last night as I was finishing up the day’s writing: Russell Hoban has died.

There have already been some fine things written about him. Here’s an obit in UK paper The Guardian. This one from his editor David Lloyd, is my favourite.

Though his creativity remained as strong as ever, Mr Hoban had been physically very frail for some time. I knew, via The Kraken, a mailing list of fans, that he was in hospital again: that’s partly why I posted Door below, as a way of wishing him well. Today I’m very sad.

As well as his warm and wonderful books, he leaves us his example. In a world which often seems like it only cares about the bottom line he pursued his own creative path where it led him, producing beautiful, original, astonishing writing on the way.

In recent interviews he said he’d begun to think of death as ‘a good career move’ – and maybe the flurry of tributes from readers all over the world who’ve been touched by his work will inspire more to discover it. Soonchild, coming in March, looks like it will be another Hoban treat. But right now, rather selfishly, I just wish he was still alive and working, so that I would have more of his books to look forward to, and know that one of my heroes was still there.

Sam

My friend Barnaby Richards has just started a new weekly webcomic. The site is called anopendoorquietly. If the new project turns out to be even a quarter as wonderful as his weekly Postcards from Cosmo were on Trapped By Monsters, then the world is in for a treat.

A Letter for Florence starts here. If, while more episodes are forthcoming, you’d like to check out Postcards from Cosmo, they start here.

And here (with thanks to The Kraken) is another Door – a short piece of animation written and narrated by one of my absolute favourite authors in the world, Russell Hoban.

My thanks to my friend the formidable James N. for making me grin with this:

I might fault the extra ‘i’ in ‘Moriarty’ but with the rest I only heartily concur: it may well be that behind Chuck Norris‘ beard there is another fist, but in terms of miles covered and enemies suavely bested Peter Cushing is still the greatest.

In another change from the Japan-related nature of my blog posts lately here’s In Chambers, an awesomely sinister short film by promising Norwegian director Aleksander Nordaas. I saw it on my favourite film website, Twitch. It’s been festering in my brain ever since.

More soon,

Sam

Robots of Brixton from Kibwe Tavares on Vimeo.

While making my lunch today I noticed a somewhat startling resemblance…

-Stand by for the announcement of the worthy winner of the Spine Chills / Crawlers Competition!

-Meanwhile, my latest TBM manga tip is the flawed but wild and audacious The Drifting Classroom, by Kazuo Umezu.

Not much (update – else!) to report: I’m currently in full research mode. So instead of a blog post here’s one of my very favourite things in the entire world ever.

The Big Snit has been cheering me up and making me grin for over twenty years now. Here’s hoping it does the same for you.

Found these two shady characters (above, below) lurking on my balcony on Saturday night.

When I approached the first to try to make some friendly conversation he became quite aggressive. Here he is (below) telling me in no uncertain terms to get out of his face and go back indoors!

It’s the time of year for roundups, when pundits fill space in blogs and papers by making lists of things. In my case, as it’s been about a year since the last time I did it, I thought I’d pass along some music recommendations.

If my neighbours have ever wondered this year just what that racket is that’s been coming from my cave, here’s the answer: my current four favourite albums.

Take one astonishing guitarist and singer. Add drums that sound like a washing machine being intricately and thoroughly hurled down a flight of stairs. The result, in the case of Marnie Stern‘s eponymous third album (above), is a glorious, inspiring, joyful noise that makes you feel like you could leap out of the window and fly.

With plaintive Kermit the Frog-style vocals, sparkling guitar and irresistible shake-it-to-the-left-shake-it-to-the-right rhythms Darwin Deez‘s debut album is charming, chiming pop perfection. And check out his moustache!

The ‘parental advisory’ sticker on Maniac Meat by Tobacco is, partly, a joke: the vocals on this album are mostly unintelligible and what few words I can make out don’t seem that rude at all. What is rude is the music: this raucous homebrewed electronic brouhaha never fails to put a grin on my face. Let it wallop you.

Lastly, in honour of Don Van Vliet who will be sorely missed, here’s an album I’ve adored ever since I first heard it when I was at school: Safe As Milk by Captain Beefheart.

I’ve included links in the text above to pages where you can try the music out for yourself. Happy listening.

Sam

That’s not a patch of moss, that’s… GAH!

Comments on the Boing Boing post where I saw this video have identified the species as harvestmen. -But, as anyone who’s read Crawlers might wonder, are they something more sinister? :D

Here’s a link to my latest post to TBM, this week about a writer of some of the finest action fantasy around right now.

Back to the bathysphere!

Sam

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