BY BILL SMITH MUSIC CRITIC Denver Colorado’s, The Fray, released their third CD “Scars and Stories” on February 7, 2012, for Epic Records. The collection of twelve songs was produced by the legendary Brendan “Bud” O’Brien. O’Brien has worked with many heavyweights in the music industry in the past twenty years, some of which are Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Stone Temple Pilots , Lifehouse, Train and Mick Jagger, just to name a few. The Fray rose to fame in the mid 00’s as America’s answer to the piano laden bands that took their inspiration, and in many cases the actual music, directly from U2 and Radiohead, Coldplay and Keane are probably the most noticeable example of this movement. While competing head to head with a band that has had as much success as Coldplay has, may have proved to be a daunting task for many of their peers who have fallen by the wayside, (anyone remember Augustana?) The Fray seems to hit their stride with this latest effort.
“Scars and Stories” isn’t much of a musical departure for the band. Meaning if you like The Fray’s music, you will love this new CD. What has made the biggest difference for the band on this album is the songs and O’Brien’s production. O’Brien has been able to harness the band and focus their talents into one cohesive conglomerate. The bands previous efforts 2005’s “How to Save a Life” and 2009 “The Fray,” were solid efforts, but the magic wasn’t consistent throughout these records. They had the big bombastic anthems “How to Save a Life,” “Over My Head (Over My Head),” and “You Found Me,” but the rest of the songs on the albums left you with some filler. O’Brien has taken a young band and channeled their resources to create an album where the songs continue to build upon each other. There really aren’t any songs that you find yourself skipping over in this album. It’s a solid play straight through. Isaac Slade, the band’s lead singer and piano player, was the chief composer on the album. His lyrics reflect that of a young man who is on the journey of life with all of the beauty and ugliness contained within.
“Heartbeat” was the first single off of “Scars” and hit the airwaves late in 2011, and “Run for your Life” has been released more recently. Tracks that really capture the essence of this album included “The Fighter,” “Here We Are,” “48 To Go,” and “Rainy Zurich.” The Fray has always flirted with spiritual elements on their albums and a great example of this is “Be Still.” I can hear this simple, yet provocative song being played on Gospel radio stations or even being used to comfort those who are mourning with the recent tragedy in Chardon. While The Fray doesn’t pull any sonic punches on this album, they have produced a solid effort none the less. “Scars,” is what The Fray does, but their just doing it better. This record won’t change the world by any means, but perhaps it will make it a little more enjoyable for 48 minutes or so.