New Music Round-Up 1/25/19: Vampire Weekend, Ryan Adams, J. Cole, Weezer, Kid Koala & more

Ryan Adams/Instagram

Welcome to the BroBible New Music Round-Up, where we see what new music has been released this week because we need something to kill time before someone does the world a favor and releases a third FYRE festival documentary. For updates, follow me on Twitter for more:  @ryanoconnell79

For a glimpse into the not-so-distant future, check out our rundown of some of the music releases we are most looking forward to in 2019.

Vampire Weekend Harmony Hall,” “2021”

It has been six long years since Vampire Weekend released their last album, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. That is so long ago. The band had been pretty off the grid during those six years, with blips showing up here and there, most notably in 2016 when guitarist Rostam Batmanglij left the band. Yet towards the end of 2018, word started getting out that they were finally putting the finishing touches on a new album, to which there was much celebration because let’s be honest, the world is a better, brighter and sunnier place when there is new Vampire Weekend music out there. That is a fact. I will not be accepting counter arguments at this time.

On Thursday the band released the first new songs from the upcoming album FOTB (it stands for Father of the Bride.) There’s the long one, “Harmony Hall” and there’s the short one, “2021.”

“Harmony Hall” will very quickly remind you why you like Vampire Weekend so much (provided you do…although if you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends.) It’s light and airy, flirting with a whimsical vibe, something that is par for the course for the band thanks in large part to Ezra Koenig’s unique vocal style. Batmanglij chipped in on the track, lending some production help. “2021” seems to exist to keep listener’s on their toes, reminding them that the band is more than just a summertime-feeling pop music factory. The track samples the music of Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono, who Koenig says that upon hearing his music, “was so struck by it and I immediately started looping it and I started writing this song on top of it.”

The album is slated to come out later this year and the band plans to release four more songs before that time comes. It’ll be a double album; 18 songs long. After six years away, I think it’s the least they can do.

J. Cole Middle Child”

J. Cole had been teasing a new song for a few days and on Twitter has been sharing tweets of famous middle children, featuring everyone from Lisa Simpson to Bill Gates. Everything made sense when “Middle Child” was released Wednesday night. The track is said to be part of Revenge of the Dreamers III, an upcoming album Cole said he finished working on earlier this month. “Middle Child” is Cole’s first new music since 2018 album KOD.

But enough about that. The story here is that – ready yourself, Cole might be taking shots at Kanye West in the song. Oof. And Drake is involved too. That sound you hear is me pouring myself a stiff drink.

Here are the lyrics in question:

“But I’d never beef with a nigga for nothin’/If I smoke a rapper, it’s gon’ be legit/It won’t be for clout, it won’t be for fame/It won’t be ’cause my shit ain’t sellin’ the same/It won’t be to sell you my latest lil’ sneakers’It won’t be ’cause some nigga slid in my lane.”

This raised eyebrows because of the sneakers bit. If you’ve been following along, and I’m sure you have been, at one point during the Kanye/Drake beef of 2018, Kanye’s sneakers were a focal point, specifically Drake allegedly taking shots at Kanye’s Adidas kicks in a verse on a French Montana song. I know, just writing that made my head hurt. Either way, Cole does have a complicated history with Kanye, although it appeared as if things were cool between the two back in May of 2018 and…you know, I really don’t care. Maybe Cole is taking aim at Kanye, maybe he isn’t. The song is pretty dope. That should be what we’re talking about.

That and the Fyre Festival of course. “That’s not fraud. That’s false advertising.” Oh Ja Rule. That’s adorable.

Ryan Adams feat. John Mayer Fuck the Rain”

Ryan Adams is not messing around heading into this wonderful year of ours. He has three albums set to be released this year. Adams last accomplished this feat back in 2005 when he released Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights and 29. Adams was quiet in 2018, with his last release, Prisoner, coming back in 2017.

The first of the three albums will be Big Colors, which will be released in April, and earlier this week, Adams dropped the first single from the album, featuring John Mayer on guitar. The new song is Adams at his acoustic guitar-strumming best, calling to mind some of his earlier work, as opposed to the laid back, California-sound of his excellent self-titled 2014 album. I generally appreciate consistency with the bands and musicians I love, but when it comes to Adams, I like that he keeps me guessing. And with him dropping three albums this year, who knows what we’re going to get from him? One could be more mellow and acoustic, one could be a little heavier and driven by twangy electric guitars and one could be a version of a Migos’ album. Based on his track record, it’s hard to say.

However, also based on his track record, it’s fun to guess what he’ll do next.

Jenny Lewis Red Bull & Hennessy”

Back in 2009 or so, I was doing some work in Detroit. This work involved some day laborers and these fine gentlemen were the first ones to introduce me to the concept of combining Red Bull and Hennessy. The results were dangerous and I’ll leave it at that. Now I hadn’t really thought about this in sometime, but I was very kindly reminded of this harrowing experience earlier this week thanks to the new Jenny Lewis song, the first single off of her upcoming album On the Line. This is her first album since 2014, when she released The Voyager.

Lewis brought some heat to the sessions for On the Line, as she worked with a backing band that included Beck, Ryan Adams and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The new album was produced by Don Was, who also worked on Adams’ Big Colors album, as well as some dude named Ringo Starr who played in a small coffeehouse band from England back in the sixties. Lewis heads out on a solo tour at the end of March before eventually teaming up with Death Cab for Cutie for some summer dates.

Weezer Weezer (Teal Album)

Remember last year when Weezer responded to a tweet suggesting they do a cover of “Africa” by Toto by doing just that and then it ended up becoming their biggest hit in years? I remember that. You probably do too. You know who else remembers that? Weezer. That would then explain why they elected to surprise everyone one Thursday morning with an entire album of covers. You gotta strike while the iron is hot, am I right?

In addition to “Africa,” the album includes the band’s takes on “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” “Take On Me,” “Billie Jean” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” which actually might be the album’s best moment.

There is also a version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” on the album. It’s fine, I guess. Although if you’re really hankering for an alternate version of that song, I’d suggest this one from the Maine band Paranoid Social Club instead.

The song that attracted the most attention on Thursday was a surprising cover of “No Scrubs” by TLC. Yes, you read that correctly. There really isn’t a world where that sentence makes sense and even if there is, it certainly isn’t this one. To say the cover is regrettable is somewhat of an understatement. It’s not great, Bob. Not great at all. Maybe if it was an off-brand cover band at the bar down the street or an above average wedding band, then a gaggle of four white dudes covering TLC would at least make a little sense. But this is neither of those. This is Weezer. I’m old enough to remember when that meant something; old enough to know that when Weezer releases a self-titled album that then becomes known as whatever the color of the album cover is (i.e. The Blue Album or The Green Album,) that means it’s one of their good albums. It then makes this whole endeavor even more insulting that they named the album what they did.

I guess all we can do is shake our heads and sigh, mumble something like “get that money, Weezer.” I suppose this was inevitable. Weezer had been inching towards this moment for the past few years. We should have seen it coming. Maybe some people did. Maybe some people like me chose to ignore it and instead find comfort in a playlist of our favorite Weezer songs. Say what you will about Weezer, but The Blue Album still holds up.

Beck “Tarantula”

Beck’s contribution to a new album of songs inspired by Roma is Beck at his high brow finest. It’s not pop and there’s definitely no prompt to dance here. The song is originally by Colourbox and Beck’s version features Feist on vocals. The rest of the album, which features songs by DJ Shadow, T Bone Burnett, Patti Smith, El-P and UNKLE featuring Michael Kiwankua will be out on February 8th. The movie is a Netflix joint, so that’s out now, meaning that if you’re at all like me, you have plenty of opportunities to think about watching it before deciding to just watch old episodes of The Office instead. I GET THAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE AMAZING AND I’LL GET TO IT EVENTUALLY! I WILL! I PROMISE. WHO AM I EVEN MAKING THIS PROMISE TO? MYSELF. I OWE IT TO MYSELF. BUT WHATEVER, I’M ALWAYS IN THE MOOD TO WATCH EPISODES OF THE OFFICE AND WILL NOT APOLOGIZE FOR THAT.

Kid Koala featuring Trixie Whitley Music to Draw To: Io

Kid Koala, the Canadian DJ, producer and graphic novelist has released his second album in his Music to Draw To ambient music series, with this one featuring Trixie Whitley, a Belgian-American singer. Koala has done work in the past with Handsome Boy Modeling School, Gorillaz, Del the Funky Homosapien, MC Frontalot and Jack Johnson among others, although this latest series of his is somewhat of a departure from his previous work. The album took over two years to make and according to Koala, it serves a specific purpose.

“This album is meant for those long travel days or quiet evenings,” Kid Koala said recently. “Grab your sketchbooks and headphones and find a quiet place to zone in. I wish you many hours of productivity!”

If this is the kind of thing you’re into, you can check out the first album in the series, 2017’s Music to Draw To: Satellite.

Rival Sons Feral Roots

Who’s down for some good old fashioned roots rock? I know I am. I always am. On their sixth album, that is exactly what you’ll get from California’s Rival Sons. There’s big time rock riffs and stomping drums and howling vocals. All that is missing is a six back of beer to throw back while you’re listening to it. Or whiskey. Whiskey would work just as well. No wine though. That seems like a stretch.

Michael Franti & Spearhead Stay Human Vol. II

Looking at the career of Michael Franti & Spearhead, it’s easy to see where things changed. It was back in 2008 with the release of his album All Rebel Rockers, an album that featured the song “Say Hey (I Love You.)” The song became Franti and company’s first US Top 20 single, reaching 18 on the US Hot 100. Franti and Spearhead went from a word of mouth band, one talked about glowingly by hippies of varying degrees and their friends, to a band that appeared on Top 40 radio. The secret was out and there was no turning back.

In the years since, I personally have been happy to lean solely on Franti and Spearhead’s earlier work, work that combined hip hop, reggae and rock. But that’s just me. Or maybe it’s others as well. Either way, Franti has soldiered on, releasing music more along the lines of “Say Hey (I Love You)” than his earlier work, as well as continuing to fight for the various causes he believes. Fun fact about Michael Franti is that he lives not only a vegan lifestyle, but a barefoot one as well. So there’s that. But there’s also Stay Human, the documentary he is releasing alongside his new album, which is his first since 2016. The documentary, much like the video for his song “The Flower,” focuses on Franti traveling the country, hearing the stories of people who have experienced some sort of tragedy and learning how they are trying to overcome it.

So, About That Greta Van Fleet SNL Appearance

Last weekend Greta Van Fleet appeared on Saturday Night Live and truth be told, I’ve spent way too much time this week thinking about it. That band truly confounds me. I just don’t get it. Neither does my wife. She got a little fired up watching those youngsters awkwardly play songs that awkwardly sound way to much like Led Zeppelin. She’s convinced that they stole their outfits from their parents and I’m inclined to believe her. I mean, they stole their sound from Zeppelin, so they have a history of theft.

I had been on the fence about the band before the SNL performance. I understood the criticism and the pot shots, but I also understood that in the process of ripping off Zeppelin, they had actually done a pretty good job. I felt that if we’re going to live in a world that is devoid of anything new from Led Zeppelin, why not something new from a band that sounds exactly like them. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution nonetheless.

But now I’m out. I just can’t take these dudes seriously. One of my wife’s many criticisms was that they looked they were playing dress up. And they do. And then a friend of mine who hadn’t heard them before seeing them on SNL was confused, left wondering why the show had booked a random Led Zeppelin cover band. His confusion is warranted.

I get that as a musician, it can be hard to distance yourself from your influences. But you have to at least try and I’m not sure Greta Van Fleet is trying that hard. I am however sure that they are not the band that is needed to re-energize rock ‘n roll, which is what I feel like they might be being called upon to do. Rock music is definitely in a rough spot right now and is certainly in need of a spark, but that spark is not Greta Van Fleet.

My Favorite Reaction to That Greta Van Fleet SNL Appearance

This Week’s Best Use of a Diddy Song Goes to…

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Let’s Put This Ariana Grande/Soulja Boy Thing to Rest Now

Last week, one of the winners of 2018 Ariana Grande dropped a new song, “7 Rings.” Great. Quickly though, people starting taking shots. Not so great. Those shots included pointing out the similarities between “7 Rings” and “Pretty Boy Swag” by Soulja Boy as well as “Mine” by Princess Nokia. People also took note that the video for the track looked a lot like 2 Chainz’ pink trap house. Well, if the Internet is going to gin this mess up, the Internet is going to solve this mess, which is what Tesher is looking to do with the “7 Rings vs. Pretty Boy Swag” video. Will it help? Who the hell knows. Everything is dumb these days.

And Let’s Just End Here

With a new video from Brass Against featuring Sophia Urista. This time the band is covering “No Shelter” by Rage Against the Machine.

Seems like a good place to end. See you next week.




Vampire Weekend Harmony Hall,” “2021”

It has been six long years since Vampire Weekend released their last album, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. That is so long ago. The band had been pretty off the grid during those six years, with blips showing up here and there, most notably in 2016 when guitarist Rostam Batmanglij left the band. Yet towards the end of 2018, word started getting out that they were finally putting the finishing touches on a new album, to which there was much celebration because let’s be honest, the world is a better, brighter and sunnier place when there is new Vampire Weekend music out there. That is a fact. I will not be accepting counter arguments at this time.

Ryan harbors a constant fear of losing his keys, prefers flip flops, and will always choose cereal if it's an option. He maintains his own blog, Giddy Up America, and has previously contributed work to UPROXX & Heavy. Ryan is on Twitter: @ryanoconnell79