For far too long, Holiday Friends has been in a state of flux. While a trio of musicians—singer/guitarist Scott Fagerland, his multi-instrumentalist brother Jon, and bassist Zack O’Connor—have remained as the core of this Astoria, Oregon-based alternative rock group since 2008, other members came and went. But with the addition of drummer Joey Ficken in 2015, the lineup and the collective perspective for the band are now set.
That cohesion has resulted in Night Terrors, one of the group’s strongest efforts to date. The new album finds the group honing their already razor sharp pop hooks while embracing moodier, darker elements. Take a song like “Heyday,” which boasts a fist-pumping chorus and throwback ‘80s synth pulses that seems ripe for Top 40 radio, but is cut through with lyrics that by turns abstract and direct. Or “Loaded Gun,” a song that builds slowly on a bed of programmed rhythms and throbbing bass lines that would make Nine Inch Nails proud, then kept aloft by airy vocals and glistening atmospherics.
Night Terrors marks a huge leap forward for Holiday Friends, and one that should help continue the momentum that they’ve been gathering in recent years. They’re always a welcome draw in Portland, where they’ve sold out clubs like Doug Fir Lounge and Mississippi Studios, and been invited to open up for artists like Vampire Weekend, Bastille, and The Vaccines. The album will only add an extra bit of wind in their sails as they look toward more shows and touring, and, with their lineup now secure, an even stronger future together.