News Chris Hadfield has agreed to take on the role of cultural ambassador for Ireland

Chris Hadfield, the singing astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, has taken on a role as cultural ambassador for Ireland.

Christmas Day 2013 was all about the battle for the other most worthy yuletide delivery: the alternative Christmas message.

Snowden v Bowie v … Kate Nash? The battle of the alternative Christmas message

While Channel 4 located the alabaster NSA whistleblower, several other household names came out of the tinsel

Review: "Lou reed: The life", By Mick Wall

A new biography of Lou Reed captures his creativity and turbulence but feels rushed

Lone parent for a week – how hard can it be?

Because my wife is off in Austria having her colon cleansed, I have been Mr Mum for the week. To my amazement, I realised that this is the first time I have looked after both my kids without Stacey for more than a day. This was quite shocking to me, but it was my kids who pointed it out. They were clearly concerned about the week ahead and how I would fare as sole carer. How hard could it be, I wondered? Wake up, make breakfast, drop them off at school, mess about all day, pick them up from school, make supper, and send them to bed. If only I'd known.

Video: Tracks from the Playlist

Watch the videos below to take in one of the tracks from this week's Playlist.

Into the woods: Radiohead's in-house artist captures Britain's hidden forest walks

Stanley Donwood was in the studio with Radiohead when he was inspired to paint holloways, the "cathedrals of nature"

The Bonus Track: Chas & Dave documentary, Laura White post-X Factor and Lorde (not Lordi)

A sideways look at the world of music

Charlotte Church: 'James Murphy would be handy to have around...'

Fantasy band: Charlotte Church

'James Murphy would be handy to have around...'

Video: Andy Gill's Mercury Music Prize

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from some of the 12 artists that Andy Gill believes should be recognised on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist.

Festival No.6 asks... Everything Everything

We spoke to Everything Everything's Jeremy Pritchard ahead of his band's appearance at Festival No. 6.

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live

Music review: Franz Ferdinand deliver polished dance-rock, but don't exactly shake things up

"Lick your cigarette and then kiss me," yelps Alex Kapranos on the ripe "No You Girls". The trim frontman (and part-time food writer) sports a short-sleeved gold shirt, trademark pointy shoes and is looking considerably younger than his 41 years.

The cover of Lady Gaga's new single 'Applause'

First look: Lady Gaga's 'Applause' video

The first single from Lady Gaga's Artpop album was leaked last week in what the singer declared a "pop emergency". What followed was a rush-release of the track, "Applause", last Tuesday, and now the video has finally been revealed.

Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album

Caught in the net: A hint of what's to come from Drake

Drake (pictured) continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album – his third – Nothing Was The Same, out on 16 September; yet another major hip hop record in year of big-name rap releases. Recently the Canadian hip hop/R&B star put out the second single from the track from his new effort, available already on iTunes and other usual digital outlets – as well as streaming on Soundcloud at snd.sc/13i6Noh. With production duties from Majid Jordan (reportedly a somewhat mysterious Canadian duo), “Hold On, We're Going Home”, veers more towards the R&B side rather than the rap side, with Drake singing quietly over layers of downbeat and downtempo house-like soundcapes. A seductive number that bears repeating.

Video: Stars and their covers albums

Watch the videos below to take in tracks from a number of music stars recent albums of covers.

Album: Samuel Purdey, Musically Adrift (Tummy Touch)

Interesting one this. Originally released in the 1990s, Musically Adrift is the work of Barney Hurley and Gavin Dodds, a session drummer and guitarist with links to Jamiroquai and the Acid Jazz label.

One minute with: Catherine O'Flynn, novelist

Where are you now and what can you see?

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Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...