Damon Albarn

Blur, Maida Vale Studio, London

If now's the time to assess Blur's place in the grand scheme, this was a reminder that they were always streets ahead of the monobrows

Album: Menomena, Mines (City Slang)

Recorded in much the same way as previous efforts (jamming, recording, looping, cutting and pasting), the biggest surprise about the latest from this Portland, Oregon, trio is how darn traditional it sounds.

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Album: Damon Albarn, Monkey: Journey to the West (XL Recordings)

A series of songs written using the Chinese pentatonic scale and sung in Mandarin might be considered a hard sell, but with Jamie Hewlett's animations of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy now on TV rotation in trailers for the BBC's Olympics coverage, Journey to the West appears to be in the process of becoming a cultural benchmark. Rightly so: there can't be many multimedia projects that are quite as satisfying and entertaining as this phantasmagoria of myth, music and mummery.

Album: The Black Ghosts, The Black Ghosts (Southern Fried)

Simian and The Wiseguys, the previous bands respectively of Black Ghosts duo Simon Lord and Theo Keating, both had tracks used to soundtrack car commercials, so it’s no surprise to find their debut album brimming with the kind of smooth, rolling technopop that gets wheels turning and wallets emptying.