The appealing sense of gliding momentum that propels “Zebra”? It’s due entirely to a rhythm based on three beats rather than four, but one which has nothing to do with either the waltzing rhythm yielded by a 3/4 beat or the bluesy shuffle of a 12/8 beat. I’m guessing we’re dealing with 6/4, but in any case the movement here is hypnotic; rooted in three beats but without any swing–it’s all one-two-three-one-two-three, no ONE-two-three-ONE-two-three–there’s a continual feeling of being carried along in anticipation, like a wave that rolls and rolls but never breaks.
Even the chorus, with its delightful opening hook (the inching-up-three-half-steps melody of “Anywhere you run”) and nifty chord changes, is musically satisfying but doesn’t really give us any deep resolution, being too nimbly constructed, not to mention too busy tricking our ear into hearing syncopation that doesn’t really exist. All in all the song is like a lovely little dream–shepherded by Victoria Legrand’s commanding and all but gender-free alto, built with brisk but evasive dynamics, leaving an impression of having happened but without a clear sense of how or why.
“Zebra” originally appeared on Teen Dream, the Baltimore-based duo’s third album, which came out in January on Sub Pop. This is a slightly different version, the so-called “UK Radio Edit,” which can be found on the Zebra EP released by for Record Store Day in April. MP3 via Sub Pop. And somehow the P.S. 22 Chorus in NYC got a hold of this song; you can watch their version in the video below.