The idea of a bunch of upper-middle-class kids from New York City playing grooves rooted in African popular music styles like Congolese soukous and kwassa kwassa might sound anywhere from suspicious to abhorrent, but Vampire Weekend’s earnest indierock take on those genres absolutely works. Down low, Chris Baio plays it cool for much of the band’s sophomore record, but where he does eschew minimalism for chops—like on “Holiday,” a rollercoaster ride of a tune—it’s sublime. “Cousins” is another workout, with bewildering 16thnote flurries that will leave you wondering how the heck he does it. It’s definitely a disc worth checking out.
ZZ Top-Double Down Live 1980–2008 (DVD) [Eagle Vision]
When ZZ Top took the stage on Essen, Germany’s Rockpalast television show in 1980, the band had just marked its 10th anniversary. When the Texas trio embarked on its Almost Now tour in 2008, it was nearing the 40-year mark, and was even longer in the tooth … and beard. If the band shows its age on either occasion—captured on this double- DVD set, it’s for the better. After years playing dive bars, the blues-rock trio had cemented a rhythmic bond that just wouldn’t budge. Bassist and singer Dusty Hill sounds fierce on the Rockpalast performance, plucking each note like he means it.