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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War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage