One of my favorite bands of the moment is the Zags, a hook-infested Portland group headed by veteran songwriters David Ricardo and Stanton Hall. They have the pop concision thing down; in all of their work I sense a continuous paring away, as if they're carving their words and melodies out of the big wall of noise that overwhelms the rest of us. Case in point is the new song "Neither/Nor," which tackles the thorny issue of privilege with intelligence and grace. Stanton's lyrics are self-aware but not self-flagellating, which makes me wonder if we should just turn all of the hot button issues of the moment over to songwriters to hash out. Why the hell not?
Topical concerns aside, check out those harmonies, that ascending guitar riff, and the way the Zags credibly work "caveat emptor" into a lyric. (What?) Plus, the video is unstoppable.
Full disclosure: Stan and I go back a ways. We used to watch Gimme Shelter in college and dream impossible dreams. But that doesn't change a damn thing about this conversation. The greatness of 2016's "Dada Plan" should be apparent to all:
Keep an eye out for the Zags' new album The Cliff, available on Oct. 25. I've heard several of the tracks and they're every bit as good as what I've posted here.