Albums: Africa Express, New Order, DMA's and Stranger Things 3
EGOLI is the Xhosa name for Johannesburg, meaning 'gold'. So far the South African city's musical delights have remained mostly unexplored by western audiences – the latest instalment in Damon Albarn's Africa Express project seeks to change this.
Egoli is the first record to capture their often frenetic live energy and distil it into something coherent. Early 2018 saw the the Blur frontman's cabal descend on a recording studio in Johannesburg. 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.
The result? Egoli feels tighter that its predecessor, 2013's Maison des Jeunes. It marries globe-trotting neo-pop with traditional South African sounds in a way that feels genuinely exciting and entirely natural.
Stranger Things 3
REGARDLESS of how you feel about the popular Netflix show, it's impossible to deny this soundtrack is an absolute stomp through the best 1980s music – and some from the 1970s too.
Without prior knowledge of the spooky, sci-fi series, the music alone wouldn't give you too much of a notion of what it's about; 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 (originally a highlight of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack), plus a new version of Limahl's 1984 hit NeverEnding Story featuring some of the Stranger Things cast on vocals.
It's a veritable mix of tunes that can be enjoyed by those who were around in the 1980s along with those who weren't.
MTV Unplugged Live
FROM the very first bar it's hard to believe that the DMAs aren't part of the Britpop scene: 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.
The band have stripped back many of their popular songs including Lay Down, Step Up The Morphine and Delete, giving them a more reflective "end of the night" type of feel.
This is lizard-lounge rock... if only it was from Manchester.
New Order + Liam Gillick
So It Goes
NEW Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes.. isn't your average live album. The title 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.
Turn away if you're expecting a "greatest hits" show. The band are on form, but Peter Hook's bass is missed, the sound quality is surprisingly lo-fi and it probably worked better with Gillick's visuals to complement the set.