Scars & Stories
Epic Records (2012)
For their third studio album, The Fray have changed it up again. Journeying out from their piano-based rolling melodies, the Denver-based group has opted for more progressive synth rock in Scars & Stories. After attaining moderately good success with their sophomore contribution, The Fray, in 2009, their latest effort is primed for one of two things: greatness or critically ensured failure.
The band reached initial success with over 3.5 million YouTube hits on the first single “Heartbeat,” and if Fray fanatics around the world rally once again (How to Save a Life went platinum and The Fray – gold),Scars & Stories will bring in big money despite launching in the off-season of music releases.
Just like The Fray’s past recordings, Scars & Stories shows a strange mastery of song writing. Lyricists and front men Isaac Slade and Joe King are capable of telling highly personal stories — from a rage-induced midnight walk (“Rainy Zurich”) to a lullaby for a little brother (“Be Still”) — that transcend the headphones and hit the heart. Never to stray far from their own core, references to earlier songs can be traced — “Rainy Zurich” echoes How to Save a Life’s “She Is” with lyrics “you are what I never knew I needed.” Family struggles are illustrated as in The Fray’s heartbreaking “Enough for Now” with “Run for Your Life,” a tribute to family love and loss.
Not to go unnoticed — finally, finally the Christian brothers of The Fray depart from their roots and tackle physical intimacy in “Turn Me On” a sexy rock anthem inspired by an African curse and a YouTube belly dancer (okay, maybe a bit silly, but it’s super catchy). Other songs are simply nice on the ears including “48 To Go,” a sweet road trip memoir.
Coming from a muddled set of inspirations, the album doesn’t have many standouts, but rather some nice little gems that remind Fray fans why they keep listening. And though it may not be The Fray’s best overall album,Scars & Stories is the most cohesive one to date. As the title suggests, it is a collection of anecdotal memories and painful ramblings that would strike at least one chord with most people on this earth. If of course, they can actually understand the mumbling vocals. But hey, that’s Isaac Slade’s thing. We won’t judge.