By Laura K. Garrison
Days after the third anniversary of their last album, The Fray’s Scars and Stories (S+S) hit shelves on Tuesday, February 7th, quickly reaching and maintaining a solid number one standing on the iTunes album charts. Although S+S is the first CD I’ve bought in years, it’s worth every penny. For devoted fans of the Denver quartet, the album introduces a new mature sound, proving that they’ve come a long way since their early days as a little-know pop rock band.
The Fray’s meteoric rise began in early 2006 when their hit (and one of my personal top five favorite songs) “How to Save a Life” was featured in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, and One Tree Hill. Constant radio play of “How to Save a Life” and stellar follow-up single “Over My Head (Cable Car)” made The Fray one of the “it” bands of 2007. Their first album, How to Save a Life, originally released in 2005, eventually went double platinum and solidified the band as one of the best new acts of the decade.
In February of 2009, The Fray released their self-titled sophomore album whose first single “You Found Me” brought back the somber, piano-heavy sound of How to Save a Life. While the second and third singles from The Fray, namely “Never Say Never” and “Syndicate” were good songs in their own respect, they could not match the incredible popularity of their predecessors. The Fray was a solid sophomore effort that harkened back to How to Save a Life but did not garner the same attention. It was nominated for the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2010, ultimately losing to The E.N.D. by The Black Eyed Peas.
With the release of S+S, however, it’s clear The Fray is ready to move beyond their post-emo piano rock image. Ordinarily this would be a risky move, but on S+S The Fray gracefully does what they failed to do on their second album: retain their signature style while introducing a new, edgier sound. This album is less piano-driven; I find this somewhat regrettable being that I originally fell in love with lead singer Isaac Slade’s unique voice and talent on the piano. However, this album has proven that The Fray is more than just an American Coldplay knockoff, which is what critics have written them off as in the past.
The leadoff single “Heartbeat,” first released in October, is the strongest song on the album and is followed by the second single, “The Fighter.” The third song, “Turn Me On,” introduces listeners to a new side of The Fray, a sexy, passion-driven sound continued later in “Here We Are.” The middle of the album contains a collection of songs that don’t quite stand out from the impressive opening numbers, but the final track, “Be Still” is the most analogous to previous Fray albums, as Slade’s vocals echo a haunting lullaby closing.
For diehard fans, S+S is another welcome (but long overdue) album; for everyone else, I would suggest skipping buying the complete album in favor of digitally downloading your favorites. S+S is available on CD, vinyl, and iTunes, which features a deluxe edition with covers of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Annie Lennox, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Below are some of my favorites from S+S:
• “Heartbeat” – The strongest song on the album. If you haven’t already, you’ll probably be singing along with it on the radio soon.
• “The Fighter” – A love song based off a Norman Rockwell painting. This song’s catchy, emotive chorus will have you hooked.
• “Turn Me On” – Believe me, you’ll be dancing,(yes, dancing) as Slade groans about “the way you’re moving.”
• “Rainy Zurich” – A song written while The Fray travelled abroad. Like the title suggests, it’s a perfect rainy day song.
Laura is a first-year at Barnard College and a Staff Writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing. She’s currently on the phone with her mom trying to convince her it’s okay to cut Spanish class to see The Fray at Radio City Music Hall on April 12th.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia