Fray’s ‘Helios’ a great listen throughout

Posted March 20, 2014


The Fray, American piano-rock band, pleases fans with its fourth album “Helios.”

The Fray's "Helios"

The Fray’s “Helios”

The Fray are influenced by other rock bands including The Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Better than Ezra and U2. They’ve also been compared to Coldplay.

“Love Don’t Die” the first single from “Helios” generated buzz and was impossible to miss for those listening to popular radio.

With its catchy lyrics and electro rock sound the song was an instant hit with fans, although the single peaked at No. 60 on Billboard’s top 100 in the U.S. Perhaps this is more of a failure of the current popularity of rock, as the song peaked at number 11 on Billboard’s U.S. Hot Rock Songs.

Formed back in 2002 in Denver by Issac Slade (lead vocalist, main songwriter and pianist) and Joe King (guitarist, pianist and backup vocals), who attended school together, The Fray’s first release, “How To Save A Life” (2005) earned the boys worldwide success and fame when it went double platinum in the U.S. and platinum in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

Their second self-titled album “The Fray” (2009) was Grammy nominated for “Best Pop Vocal Album” in 2010. Their third album “Scars & Stories” generated less buzz, hitting number four on the Billboard 200.

Slade’s unmistakable vocals carry the song with lyrics like “If I know one thing, that’s true ,It ain’t what you say, it’s what you do , And you don’t say much, yeah, that’s true, But I listen when you do,  A thousand years go by,  But love don’t die.”

The first track on the album however “Hold My Hand” is arguably the one that sounds most like The Fray’s earlier work. With Slade’s raspy rock vocals and a slow and soft piano start with guitar and other instrumentals added slightly later in the track, it’s reminiscent of tracks from “How To Save A Life.”

Surprising tracks like “Give it Away” separate this album from the Fray’s earlier work. With an undeniable disco sound, the song is unexpected but enjoyable. With lyrics like “Free, love is free, love is free. Come on and give it away. Come on and give it away now,” the repetitive but catchy chorus is likely to get stuck in any listener’s head in no time. The sound of the track is what makes it a standout in the album though.

As a whole, the album ebbs and flows with a natural rhythm that rises and falls and while each song is unmistakably The Fray, the bands plays with different styles and sounds going from piano-rock, to electro-pop and even disco, making the album anything but dull.

Slade and King wrote the lyrics for each track, and collaborated with “One Republic” song writer and lead vocalist Ryan Tedder on “Love Don’t Die”. Sam Hollander, songwriter and record producer (Train, Daughtry, Neon Trees) collaborated on the final track “Same As You.”

With meaningful and deep lyrics that grapple with life’s most crucial issues like love, heartbreak, struggle and joy the band appeals to those looking beyond bubble gum pop.  Those addicted to the vocals of Slade won’t be able to get enough of his raspy rock sound.

Critics may not love the way the band experimented on this album but “Helios” is a great listen, worth buying, the kind of album you can easily listen to all the way through without skipping any tracks.

  • Artists: The Fray (Issac Slade, Joe King, Dave Welch and Ben Wysocki)
  • Album: Helios
  • Released: Feb. 25, 2014
  • Label: Epic Records, owned by Sony Music Entertainment Inc., a Sony Corp. subsidiary
  • Producers: Stuart Price, Ryan Tedder
  • Genre: piano-rock, alternative rock, pop rock
  • Price: $9.99 digital download $11.88 audio cd $26.21 vinyl
  • Personal Rating: 9/10