Be Manos, Brussels: hotel of the week

There’s more to Europe's capital than MEPs and triple-cooked chips – set foot inside Be Manos hotel in Brussels and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d arrived in Carnaby Street’s hippest hangout during peak Sixties swing…

Listen up: TuneSmith’s musical recommendations for August

For this month’s selection of summer sounds, our esteemed TuneSmith, Rob Wood, picks out a surprisingly uplifting medley of melancholia, and an album inspired by one of Smith’s top honeymoon hotels, the Maldivian paradise of Huvafen Fushi

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Boys Outside by Steve Mason

When? You’ve exhausted Beta Band and Hot Chip
Why?
This is the alpha Beta’s finest solo outing to date

There’s a black cloud hanging over this album that, in theory, shouldn’t be there given it’s produced by Richard X – the man responsible for frothing the pop of the Sugababes, Rachel Stevens and Liberty X. Yet the coming together of this musical maverick and Steve Mason’s heart-wrenching exposure of his own depression proves to be a masterstroke of music-making. As the former frontman of the revered Beta Band, Mason is no stranger to experimenting around the fringes of pop, dub, dance and folk (as heard on Smith’s Something for the Weekend CD series). Boys Outside is his best solo work so far. For all its sombre subject matter, each song is lifted by a shimmering electronic soul sound which floats above Mason’s delicate guitar and piano on a bed of dubbed-out electro pulses. It’s sad but rivetingly beautiful and instantly captivating. A record that’s sure to be championed as an under-appreciated classic in years to come.

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How to… drive in the Alps

Car adverts invariably show a gleaming vehicle purring unhindered along an empty highway that twists and turns through magnificent scenery. Real life is, of course, a bit different. The reality is that the average speed of a car in London’s rush-hour traffic is seven miles an hour, and the nearest that many motorists get to top gear these days is watching Jeremy Clarkson on Dave. But don’t despair: you can escape the terrible tedium of the Hammersmith gyratory (and Clarkson). In the Alps.

Ski holidays in the Alps - driving tips

Before you blaze off into the mountains, it’s worth considering a few of the lessons I learned the hard way while researching the Smith Ski collection. Here are some tried-and-tested Alpine driving tips to help you get to your ski chalet in one piece: