Pharrell Williams keeps fans happy with surprise new album GIRL

The Week in Music: Pharrell Williams releases first album in eight years

What with Beyoncé's unannounced, surprise album release in December and Prince popping up all over London from the Electric Ballroom to Ronnie Scott's this past fortnight, lately it's been all about shaking up the music industry, cutting out the well-oiled machinery of PR and focusing on the music.

Not quite as revolutionary as Prince and Beyoncé's recent activities, but still surprising is the two weeks' notice Pharrell Williams has just given us on the new album he is releasing on 3 March.

GIRL will be the Daft Punk collaborator's first solo album in eight years, since 2006's In My Mind, and includes his No 1 hit "Happy" – and a string orchestra, as shown by a teaser video of the making of the album.

Rowland goes from no-hoper to screen star

"I was a no-hoper. Prison was a possibility…an absolute possibility. It probably was 50-50. I was considered a failure – I left school at 15 with no qualifications," says Kevin Rowland as he ties the laces of his monochrome brogues. As far as trailers go, this one for Nowhere Is Home, the forthcoming film on Dexys, who played some of the most incendiary shows of last year, directed by Kieran Evans and Paul Kelly, is pretty captivating. Expect the film this coming autumn.

Slow-burning sounds tug the heartstrings

Howling Bells emerged in 2006 with their debut album of gothic-indie-folk recalling Mazzy Star with the intoxicating velvet vocals of Juanita Stein. They are releasing their fourth album, Heartstrings, in June, and the intense new single, "Slow Burner", out on 7 April, which is streaming now at Drownedinsound.com, shows the band at their potent best.

Hot tickets

The Specials go on tour this November, including a show at the London Roundhouse where they've never played despite filming the video for their 1979 hit "A Message to You Rudy" there. Tickets are on sale today.

Gig of the week

Jon Hopkins's 2013-released Immunity, a powerful album of propulsive techno, was a landmark moment in modern British electronic music and earned him a Mercury Prize nomination. Prior to the Mercury nod, Hopkins had sold fewer than 20,000 copies, and his sell-out show at London's Forum tomorrow is his biggest to date.

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