IT'S RARE that I say, "This band should be on mainstream pop radio" and mean it as a compliment. Amid all the music that comes off the assembly line of the choking, corporate-driven airwaves, there are, of course, few bands that can impress both your average mainstream listener, and your average indie rock musician. The only middle ground seems to be mainstream R&B--who doesn't like Destiny's Child?--but as boys-with-guitars bands go, mainstream radio is a black hole of verse-chorus-verse and pained (yet manly!) crooning.

That's why I have to clarify about The Holidays. They should be on mainstream pop radio, but it's because they should be setting the standard for what's played on mainstream pop radio. They're not another crappy Deftones band, and they're not as musically flaccid as Matchbox Twenty, et al. Unlike many mainstream bands (and some bands in Portland that want to be mainstream), they don't try to cop the style of The Beatles. Their harmonies are not vapid, and they don't play the same drudging riffs over and over.

"We have this basic understanding of being a good musician--taking the responsibility to learn your instrument, being a good listener when you listen to other music, and to make a point to know what you're listening to. That helps us to make our songs more creative and tighter," says bassist Jamin Swenson.

The Holidays, a Portland four-piece, are poppy, original, and musical in the musician's sense of the word. They incorporate jazzy bass, two full-sounding, melodic guitars (David Hughes and Lucas Adams), and steady-handed, indie-influenced drumming (Peter Swenson). Their vocals will make you want to dance. They will make you bob your head and feel very happy. You will also gawk at how they turn their complicated musicianship into music that's so tightly wrapped. The Holidays play the kind of feel-good songs that you put on mix tapes and listen to all summer long.

"There's no intent, though. We don't think stylistically," says Jamin Swenson.

So how can their music be so pleasing to so many different types of listeners?

"When David writes songs, he has a main idea for the melody and the chords he's going to play, and then he's like, 'do what you want to do,' If he brings a song, we just work together as a band," says Adams.

The Holidays' core influences range from Mahler to Ella Fitzgerald to Sunny Day Real Estate, and it makes for interesting parts. For instance, one of their songs, entitled "Parasol," starts out with a rousing, catchy chorus of "Now I know/why everybody wants to go back," with quick tempo harmonies; almost immediately, it becomes quiet and whispery without being melodramatic. After another chorus, it rips into this great, punk rock riff that could have come from an early SST release. You can visualize a melting pot of people bobbing their heads to it: skaters, middle-aged lawyers, old school jazz fans, Britpoppers, maybe even a crusty punk or two. It's perfectly universal.

So, if you start hearing The Holidays on the radio, you'll know the bar has been raised. Even in heavy rotation, their music is more likely to stimulate your mind after the six hundredth time than the average mainstream pop band. As Peter Swenson says, "We try to play what's interesting to us. I hate getting bored."