The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Skepta, Sturgill Simpson, DJ Shadow


We spent a lot of time this week thinking about the blurry line between art and reportage that PJ Harvey toes on her latest LP, The Hope Six Demolition Project; it’s some of her most interesting and troubling work in years.

But elsewhere in music, there was plenty of less problematic work released into the world. We spent an inordinate amount of time listening to the incredible “Skin” from All Dogs’ fantastic Kicking Every Day LP from 2015; you can find our chat and brief history with Maryn Jones right here. Since that record came out last year, we’ve also got some new hotness for you: some “Selfish”-ness from Andy Stott and his old piano teacher, a French musician scores an exclusive feature from Edward Snowden, a rising country star draws inspiration from some classics, and the new face of grime considers what it means to be a “Man.” But first, the DJ Shadow/Run The Jewels collabo you never knew you always wanted:

DJ Shadow — “Nobody Speak (ft. Run The Jewels)”

Whether or not you’ve considered it before, a DJ Shadow and Run The Jewels collaboration makes so much sense it’s shocking it hasn’t happened already. The beat he serves up for “Nobody Speak” is appropriately filthy, providing a fitting backdrop for bars like, “Picture this/ I’m a bag of dicks/ Put me to your lips” or “Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest.” Yup. Of the collaboration, El-P explains in a press release: “Shadow is a legend and a friend. When he makes music he often changes music forever. When he asked us to jump on the record we didn’t blink.”

Andy Stott — “Selfish”

Alison Skidmore was Manchester producer Andy Stott’s childhood piano teacher, but you’ve got to figure the music they made back then sounds a lot different from the music they’re making today. Stott reached out to his old tutor, who’s also trained in opera, while he was making an album in 2012, and he did the same for his upcoming album ​Too Many Voices. Those vocals are barely there, but they’re key to the haunting success of Stott’s latest track, “Selfish.”

It’s hard to describe this track because it exists in a world of its own, but it’s a dark, foreboding piece of work, the kind of thing that would soundtrack a smash-cut montage of a heroin rush, shot entirely on Steadicam. It sounds so bleak as to be almost scary, perfect in its wrongness and beautiful in its unabashed hideousness. Too Many Vices is out April 22. —Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

Jean-Michel Jarre — “Exit (ft. Edward Snowden)”

Edward Snowden has gone on record about being a fan of chiptune music, and apparently techno musician Jean-Michel Jarre has taken notice. He recently tapped some Snowden vocals for his new jam “Exit,” which, while sounding more industrial than chiptune, definitely embodies the aesthetic of the digital realm. You can find it on Electronica Volume II: The Heart of Noise, out May 6 on Columbia.

Sturgill Simpson — “Call To Arms”

Sturgill Simpson is a rising star in country music, and he’s gotten there his own way, paying homage to forebears without restricting himself to the codified structures of Big Country Music. His LP A Sailor’s Guide to Earth drops today on Atlantic, and our favorite track might just be its last, “Call To Arms,” which sounds suspiciously similar to the arrangement on his version of “Listening to the Rain/The Motivator,” which we’ve highlighted in this space before. Give the whole record a spin over on Spotify, and listen for Lil’ Joe’s blistering fretwork on the album’s closer.

Skepta — “Man”

Skepta’s been carrying the torch for the recent resurgence in attention paid to UK grime, no doubt aided by his stellar turn on Blood Orange’s “High Street.” This new track, “Man,” is relentless, and showcases his decidedly British perspective on race: “Came a long way from when whites never used to mix with blacks/ now all my white niggas and my black mates, we got the game on smash.” His debut LP, Konnichiwa, is set to drop May 6 on Boy Better Know.