[GARAGE POP] Power-pop quartet the Zags might sing about the '80s on their debut EP, but they are a band clearly indebted to the '60s. Heavy on three-part harmonies, cute keyboard hooks, rolling guitar and youthful lyrics, Small Bags plays like a dedicated and often charming throwback to the days when garage-y power pop reigned supreme.
Coated in a light layer of grunge—the EP was recorded in singer David Ricardo's basement—the otherwise sugar-sweet songs cover topics of young love, breakups and social awkwardness, all laced with warm, jangly guitar hooks and sludgy basslines. Album opener "It's Over" is a prime example, with a rippling, surf-influenced guitar solo and an infectious keyboard melody placed over a group chorus that chants simply, "Oh yeah/ She knows it's over." The catchy "Hey!" digs its hooks in with a woozy organ line and Ricardo's charismatic falsetto wail, while "Bridge of 1987" shows a more aggressive side to the group, with crashing, cymbal-focused drums and a dense bassline under sharp, harsh vocals.
The '60s vibes have their perks throughout the album, but the repetitive chugging grows a bit tired after a while, and the lyrical puppy love doesn't always hold attention. Still, more often than not, the Zags nail the sound they set out to create, and it's good for a quick blast to the past.
SEE IT: The Zags play Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Blue Skies for Black Hearts and the Singles, on Saturday, Aug. 9. 9 pm. $10. 21+.