Arts and Entertainment Johnny Marr appears to have reformed himself

The sun blazes over Manchester almost ceaselessly. The 40,000 gathered over the weekend in a corner of the city’s beautiful Heaton Park need no further excuse to celebrate.

RockNess, Dores, near Inverness

"This is the official start to the festival season," announced London rapper Example from the main stage of the Scottish Highlands' flagship music festival, "and you're the type of crowd I like to see. The further north I go, the crazier you get." He has a point. The weekend's most well-received acts will struggle to repeat the response they enjoyed here this summer.

Gruff Rhys - Eccentric rock'n'roll with no reservation

Hotel toiletries inspired Super Furry Animals' frontman Gruff Rhys's latest album, the Welshman tells Andy Gill

Album: Beth Ditto, Beth Ditto EP (Deconstruction)

Described by her as akin to a sanctioned, temporary affair adding extra spice to her long-term relationship with Gossip, this four-track collaboration with Simian Mobile Disco plays to a different side of Beth Ditto's talent – one where her usual raw-throated rock power is restrained within the context of scudding electropop grooves. Though inspired by Grace Jones's new-wave disco torch-songs, the results are markedly dissimilar: Ditto's far too engaged a singer to emulate Jones's aloof cool, her tremulous vibrato animating "I Wrote the Book" and the uncertain emotional terrain of "Do You Need Someone", where she has to "bite my tongue, my feelings under lock and key". Indeed, over the languid, loping synth-bass groove of "Goodnight Good Morning", she sounds uncannily like Madonna.

Caught in the Net: Gorillaz get into the seasonal spirit

As promised several weeks ago, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and some of their regular Gorillaz co-conspirators – Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Bobby Womack – delivered a new album on Christmas day.

Album: Klaxons, Surfing the Void (Polydor)

The curse of the Mercury Prize strikes again!

Observations: The xx's debut album is transformed into a sound sculpture

Anyone who has seen the south London trio The xx live will have felt the powerful, resonating bass of their hypnotic, off-kilter, minimalist indie. Their critically acclaimed debut album, xx, is now being transformed into a sound sculpture that will enable the listener to experience the album in an even more physical way.

Caught in the net: Portishead chase forth

Given the three-year gap between Portishead's first record and their second, and the 11 years between album two and their third LP of new material, the emergence of new music a little over a year after 'Third' was released, displays admirable productivity for the band. OK, it's only a single song, not a full album, but still.

I Love Techno, Flanders Expo, Ghent, Belgium

Techno has acquired a reputation somewhere between Eurotrash and Madchester in recent years in the UK, but Ghent's annual I Love Techno festival is proof that neither the music nor the fans are as naff or as addled as either of these connotations unfairly suggest.

Story of the song: The age of the understatement, The Last Shadow Puppets (2008)

The Arctic Monkeys' frontman, Alex Turner, and the guitarist Miles Kane, from The Rascals, bonded over Scott Walker.

Festival Round-up - The artists' view

Little Boots
"Glastonbury was obviously a highlight for me this year, as was my mum crying her way through the entire set from side of stage. DJing wedding songs dressed in a full bridal gown to about 2,000 people in the early hours of Latitude was another. Especially because we managed to make the biggest conga line I've ever seen. But I think my favourite moment was at Leeds. My little brother came along and it was his birthday so I'd got him and his friends backstage passes for the weekend, which I think already upped his street cred, but at the end of the set I got him on stage and had the entire crowd to sing happy birthday to him. It was great just to see his face. He's definitely the coolest kid in school right now."

My Fantasy Band: James Ford, Simian Mobile Disco

Vocals - Ozzy Osbourne
Obviously he's an amazing frontman and is known for being pretty nuts but I think he's a really underrated writer, too. Some of the melodies on the earlier Black Sabbath records are incredible. I'd like him or R. Kelly to front this band.

Simian Mobile Disco - Standing out the way of control

Simian Mobile Disco intended their new album to consist of plain techno. Then indie stars such as Beth Ditto, Gruff Rhys and Hot Chip got in touch, and they realised they'd better write some songs. They talk Chris Mugan through their chaotic creative process

Album: Simian Mobile Disco, Temporary Pleasure (Wichita)

The first secret of any great party is the guests,and James Ford's choiceof invitees on the second SMD album is inspired.

Caught in the Net: Stars to get Beck on track

Emerging fresh from last year's enjoyable 'Modern Guilt' record, Beck (left) has kick-started a revamp of his website, http://beck.com, with an interesting new project. Called "Record Club", the new endeavour sees Beck set himself the not inconsiderable task of recording, with the help of various musicians, cover versions of entire albums in a single day's studio session – with no prior rehearsals or planning.

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