Albums of the week - from New Order to Stranger Things soundtrack
There are plenty of intriguing albums this week including Africa Express' fourth record, the soundtrack of Stranger Things season three and a live recording from New Order
Africa Express - Egoli
Egoli is the Xhosa name for Johannesburg. In English it translates as City of Gold but so far the South African city's musical delights have remained mostly unexplored by the western audience.
The latest instalment in Damon Albarn's Africa Express project seeks to change this.
The group, a selection of western players and a dozen or so artists representing the city's varied musical heritage, laid down an impressive 18 tracks.
The record features a typically diverse cast: Albarn is joined by grime rapper Ghetts, Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys and South Africans Otim Alpha and Moonchild Sanelly among others.
It marries globe-trotting neo-pop with traditional South African sounds in a way that feels genuinely exciting.
Stranger Things 3: Official Soundtrack
Regardless of how you feel about the popular Netflix show, it's impossible to deny this soundtrack is an absolute stomp through the best of 1980s music (and some of the 1970s).
Without having any prior knowledge of the spooky sci-fi show about a bunch of kids battling a monster in a typical mid-1980s American town, the music alone wouldn't give you too much of a notion of what it's about, as tracks vary from REO Speedwagon classic Can't Fight This Feeling to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham! and Madonna's Material Girl.
There are also some quirkier additions, including Weird Al Yankovich's My Sharona parody My Bologna, and Neutron Dance by The Pointer Sisters, which work to give a slight indication as to the humour laced throughout the otherwise quite unsettling drama.
DMAs - MTV Unplugged Live
From the very first bar it's hard to believe that the DMAs aren't a huge part of the Britpop scene.
Instead Matt Mason, Tommy O'Dell and Johnny Took are practically an Australian Oasis. It's very confusing, yet soothing to old ears like mine. This MTV Unplugged set is an audio treat, stepping back in time with this very modern band. Following in the footsteps of Unplugged gods Nirvana there is a cover that you wouldn't really expect; this time Madonna's Beautiful Stranger is reworked and enlivened. Time & Money is an anthem of a tune from their second album For Now.
This is lizard-lounge rock... if it was from Manchester.
New Order - ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes...
This isn't your average live album. Look at the title for a start, a typically arty, Factory Records-style title that references the fact this 2017 show took place in the old Granada Studios, where Joy Division made their TV debut on Tony Wilson's music series.
This special show, part of Manchester International Festival, saw New Order perform with a 12-piece synthesizer orchestra from the Royal Northern College of Music, plus a stage set designed by visual artist Liam Gillick.
The band chose to perform lesser-known tracks from their back catalogue, plus some Joy Division tracks, with Bernard Sumner performing Ian Curtis's vocals respectfully. Disorder is a particular highlight, having not been performed in over 30 years.
The band is on form, but Peter Hook's bass is missed, and the sound quality is surprisingly lo-fi.
Palace - Life After
London three-piece Palace follow up their 2014 debut with another clutch of intricate and haunting indie-rock anthems.
Drenched with echoing guitars in minor keys, the ethereal melodies are often at odds with disarmingly apocalyptic lyrics: there's a marked preoccupation with Heaven, Hell and devils on display, as demonstrated in lead single Martyrs.
As is common to the genre, a certain amount of angst also informs the tracks. Younger, for example, seems to address the inexorable passing of time - although older listeners might not entirely sympathise with singer Leo Wyndham's apparent distaste at "jogging towards 30". However, with its warm musicianship and elegiac tone, Life After is a better than average alternative rock album.