Loyal fans of piano rock band The Fray may have to wait longer for a different-sounding album, as “Scars & Stories” offers nothing different from their previous works.
The Fray, made up of worship leaders from Denver, has enjoyed plenty of success in a short amount of time. Since their 2005 debut, they have received four Grammy award nominations, two Teen Choice award nominations and won three Billboard digital music awards.
The band has drawn comparisons to rock bands such as Maroon5, Coldplay and OneRepublic, though their official influences are The Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Better Than Ezra and U2. The band’s songwriting has encompassed themes like happiness, sadness, death, evil, relationships and war, while featuring religious undertones.
They made their grand debut with their now double-platinum “How to Save a Life” album that peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard 200. It spawned four top 20 hits on Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart: “Over My Head (Cable Car)” (No. 2), “How to Save a Life” (No. 1), “Look After You” (No. 12) and “All At Once” (No. 20). Reviews for the album were mixed, as critics found it to be uninspired and unfocused, but the album was commercially successful.
Their second album “The Fray,” which was later certified gold, featured a slight shift in their sound as ballads were softer and up-tempo songs were more energetic. It produced three top 20 hits: “You Found Me” (No. 1), “Never Say Never” (No. 7) and “Syndicate” (No. 16). Reviews were less positive, as many critics found it to too similar to their last album; however, positive critics noted “The Fray” was more consistent and focused.
So far, they have established a loyal fan base, which has in part played a role in their being ranked No. 84 in Billboard’s “Artists of the Decade” list. The Fray had big shoes to fill with their third album, which was released on Feb. 7 and reached No. 1 on the iTunes albums chart on the day of its release.
“Scars & Stories” is no different from their previous albums.
All three albums feature pianodriven pop rock melodies with lead singer Isaac Slade’s light, American-accented falsetto. The album, like its predecessors, is evenly divided into lighter piano and uptempo rock tracks, and the album’s producer, Brendan O’Brien, is known for his work with Bruce Springstein, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine.
Despite the sameness, “Stories” does include standout tracks that do not disappoint, and those who enjoy piano rock records or Isaac Slade’s unusual style will still enjoy the album.
“The Wind” is one of its best tracks, bearing some lyrical resemblance to their previous hit “You Found Me,” drawing on themes of confusion, despair and the eternal search for something great. The song begins with the lyrics “Oh, my God, I think I’m lost at sea, and these silent waves are my company.”
“1961” is another uptempo song of drums and guitar, and Slade sings about the Berlin Wall with tender falsetto. The song features themes of unity and damage. Historians would enjoy the story hidden underneath the notes.
“Be Still” is Slade’s most vulnerable song as he sings from God’s perspective with only piano accompaniment, asking us to be still and know that He reigns.
It’s lyrically matched to Story Side:B’s “Be Still” and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still and Know.”
The deluxe version on iTunes includes five bonus tracks. Standout tracks include the tobyMac- esque, urban “Ready or Not” and a refreshing, countrytinged cover of Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder to Birmingham,” on which she is featured.
The album debuted at No. 4, selling 87,000 copies in its first five days of availability, and it has more than enough potential to be certified gold. Despite the sameness, The Fray is an established band that will always be known for its piano roots, pop rock hooks and Slade’s open-book lyrics.