It's no idle decision to open your indie-rock album with Nyabinghi drums. The Jamaican rhythm is deeply associated with Rastafarianism and has been eschewed by Christian islanders wanting to distance themselves from their African roots. Plus, the bass note is known as "the Vatican Basher," so, um, there's that. Yes, Vampire Weekend are still trading in clever cultural references speaking both to their Ivy League educations and, more importantly, their Wikipedia-fed curiosity. But on album number three, Ezra Koenig kills his darlings instead of commas (and cups of horchata) in order to paint a curious picture of Love in a Time of Tea Parties. Rather than chant down Babylon, the 29-year-old admits he's not sure where Zion actually begins, populating his world with characters who assume fate to be prescribed (Born-Agains) or who lack direction altogether (his girlfriends). While he susses out a path of optimistic skepticism based on the Socratic Paradox — "I know only that I know nothing" — multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij similarly pares down the sonically precious into universally understood pop hooks. As lively a philosophical inquiry as you're likely to find this decade. C.M.