Voices

Smoking is the hazy fug of a 1930s jazz club, the deadline mist of a 1970s newsroom and the chocolate-wood smell of my granddad’s lounge circa 1988

Caught In The Net - Gremlins beset Russian fairy

Even three years since her breakthrough album 'Begin to Hope' was described as "one of the rare albums where the talent practically sears the speakers" by The Onion's AV club, Regina Spektor's quirky piano pop is still as bizarre as anything indie music has to offer. It's been a busy week for the Russian pop fairy (left), with her new record release beset with artwork problems after the wrong images were distributed, leading Spektor to speculate on the chances of her forthcoming album, "Far", being released with a "t" added to the end of its title. "We had a million comps, ideas, and we posted the wrong ones," the starlet mused on her MySpace blog, adding: "I'm giving up trying to make things perfect, because they never are". Gastric mix-ups aside, though the album doesn't hit the shelves until 23 June, anyone looking for a sneak preview can check out the star's MySpace page for the brand new "Laughing With", described by the Spektor herself as "a new song that I never played for people at shows before". Along with some older hits, it's available at tinyurl.com/nypxo

My Fantasy Band - Ebony Bones

Vocals - Poly Styrene
The X-Ray Spex singer makes an amazing frontwoman. I would definitely put her braces back on so she had a gob full of metal. I'd also have the Pointer Sisters on backing vocals. They even sang on "Sesame Street"!

Paul Carrack, Ronnie Scott's, London

Superlative talents like Paul Carrack. He replaced Jools Holland in Squeeze twice, has had spells with Roxy Music, Nicks Lowe and Cave, played sessions with The Smiths, and written songs for the Eagles. You'll know his beret, grey beard and shades from his time as singer for Mike Rutherford's Genesis off-shoot Mike + the Mechanics. But it's as a reliable professional hand in better bands' later days that Carrack has become a minor part of British rock's fabric.

Close-up: Just Jack

How do you cope with sudden pop fame at 32? A quiet night in with a DVD

Observations: Can we sing it? Yes we can!

It was only a matter of time. In this case, surprisingly little time. Barely a third of the way into his first 100 days in office, Barack Obama is set to appear on the London stage – in a musical. OK, the man himself won't actually tread the boards – nor will an actor have the impossible task of living up to the immensely popular President. Rather, Obama on My Mind, which will play in North London's charming Hen and Chickens pub next month, is a political comedy about the determined individuals behind the campaign to get Obama into the White House, set to 14 pop, gospel, jazz and Motown tunes. Teddy Hayes, a Cleveland-born crime-writer and film-maker who has been living in London for 13 years was inspired to write the piece when he started canvassing overseas Americans in the run-up to the election.

Debbie Purdy & Omar Puente: A matter of love and death

She doesn't want to die. But when she does, she wants to hold her husband's hand, knowing he won't be arrested. On Tuesday, a court will decide if she can. Cole Moreton meets... Debbie Purdy & Omar Puente

The 39 Steps, BBC1 <br>Affinity, ITV

The BBC's remake of John Buchan's 'The 39 Steps' follows a long tradition of being unfaithful to the book

Last Night: Later With Jools Holland, BBC2

Carla and the monsters of rock

Blues brother: Seasick Steve rides the wave of sudden fame

He went from hobo to hero almost overnight, and now he's the toast of the festival circuit. Tim Walker catches up with Seasick Steve and hears the story of his incredible journey

Later with Jools Holland, Metallica...and Carla Bruni

The halls of the Elysée Palace are not famous for reverberating with the thrashing drums and shredded guitar solos of "Kill 'Em All", "Cunning Stunts" or "St Anger". Nevertheless, the French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is apparently enthralled to be taking time out from her diplomatic duties to jam alongside the heavy metal band Metallica – and Sir Paul McCartney – in a live appearance on Jools Holland's late-night television music show in two weeks' time.

Terence Blacker: Why we hark back to the old certainties

Between spasms of optimism and self-belief, there have been long periods of hand-wringing

Dawn Kinnard, Bar Academy, London

There's a story behind the whisky-soaked, lived-in voice that belongs to Dawn Kinnard. The daughter of a Baptist preacher in Pennsylvania, Kinnard would take her guitar to her hairdressing job, where she started to write songs; she sold her treasured Harley-Davidson to record her mini-album. That she was discovered singing in a Nashville bar is fitting, given her smoky blues and country sound.

Things the Grandchildren Should Know, By Mark Oliver

A revealing and poignant memoir is marred by bursts of grouchy, rock-star posturing
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there