The Fray, though not known by a lot of people right now, they are one of the up and coming bands that are looking to be noticed. Already getting airplay on radios around the States, their first single “Over My Head (Cable Car)” placed #37 on the US Modern Rock charts. With a release of Two EP’s entitled Movement and Reason, they were sold while touring with bands like Jimmy Eat World and the famous singer/songwriter Ben Folds.
Now after being signed to Epic Records in 2004 and releasing their highly anticipated album “How to Save a Life” in 2005, they look to new things and possibilities of possibly being one of the best Pop-Rock bands in 2005.
How to Save a Life
By: The Fray
Record Label: Epic Records/Sony
Released: September 13, 2005
Reviewed by: Kendall Hirata
Current members of The Fray:
Isaac Slade – Piano, Vocals
Joe King – Guitar, Vocals
Ben Wysocki – Drums
Dave Welsh – Guitars
Jimmy Stofer - Bass
The Fray has done something with the genre of Pop-Rock that I can’t quite explain, powerful lyrics that express Isaac’s feeling to feel he has to save people from the bad things in life. As the name of the album implies “How to Save a Life”, many of the songs are about him trying to save the lives of those who have lost their way in life, be it through drug abuse or the loss of a loved one. Filled with catchy melodies, rhythms, and choruses, this is a very heart felt album that looks past the often used “I hate that bitch for leaving, now I’m going to write ten albums worth of songs about it”. And now I present a track by track review for the album, “How to Save a Life”.
1. She Is - The album starts out with a fairly fast song with a piano intro with the guitar following shortly after. One of the faster songs on the album doesn’t seem to stick out as being a good track on the album, a typical song about I guess a girl who left Isaac and wishes she would get back to him (yeah I contradicted myself, but hey one song is forgivable). The one thing that sticks out in this song is the cymbal crashes and tambourines in this song; however it just doesn’t seem to appeal to me in terms of lyrics or musicianship, its just overall average.
2. Over My Head (Cable Car) – Now this is what The Fray does right, a simple bass drum kick starts the song at a moderate pace with Isaac playing a catchy piano rhythm and the bass really does a good job backing up Isaac in the verses. Then song transform from a quiet song and crescendos into an explosive chorus with the guitar playing a simple yet effective riff that adds to the song than takes away. I really liked the piano and guitar riffs in the song, the little interlude near the end builds up to the final chorus and ends the song leaving you breathless with a sense of amazement and wonder. Great song, very good choice of a single to be played on the radio, this song got me into The Fray.
3. How To Save A Life – The title track usually doesn’t make a huge impact on an album, but this is one exception. With Isaac on the piano again and the bass playing a dominant role, in that I’m saying the bass gives the song kind of a swing feel that I really enjoyed in the song. The guitar in the song just plays a couple of riffs here and there and strums a chord on the chorus, but still better than nothing. Is that strings I hear in the back? It really adds to the ambiance and the marimbas I think are simple additions that make this song stick in your head for days. I believe the song is about Isaac trying to help a crack-addict teen according to their website.
4. All At Once – Starts with a kind of weird/irritating sounding guitar part and the bass playing whole notes to accompany Isaac singing. Then switches to the basic piano and guitar playing thing they do, however it still seems fresh. I really like the half time feel they give in the chorus; it sticks out the most in my mind. The small guitar parts during the verses may seem insignificant, but they really do add a lot, imagine it without them and you would have the worst sounding song on the CD (although all the tracks would be horrible without them).
5. Fall Away – A dreamy guitar riff and piano part start off the song, then bursts into a 6/8 time feel, I’m glad they switched it up in this song. Isaac’s vocals really sound somber sounding in this one and others. Basic drumming, nothing spectacular like the other songs, I wish Ben would try to change it up once and a while, although the ending really does sound much better than the beginning of the song. The bass isn’t as dominant as it was in earlier tracks, but still it’s a really touching track, something along the lines of someone who left something undone and did not take responsibility for it, so the person has to live with it for the rest of their life.
6. Heaven Forbid – Starts off with a guitar strumming a couple of chords and the drums come in with the basic bass kick, snare hit, and repeat formula. Isaac’s whisper quiet vocals start sounding the same at this point of the album, but I think it matches the feel of all the songs here. The chorus is probably the highlight here, with a catchy phrase “Heaven forbid, you end up alone, and don’t know why. Hold on tight and wait for tomorrow you’ll be alright”. The outro is where the bass and drums really shine; this is their moment to shine with them almost rocking out till the quiet finish with the piano and guitar ending a near perfect song.
7. Look After You – Another moderate song with a piano part song nearly mimicking the drums, but the highlight is the violins and violas that back up the song and its message. It’s not the greatest string arrangement but it somehow feels a little out of place, but still a great addition. VERY small guitar parts in this one (if any), but with the haunting “Ohh ohh”’s from Isaac makes this song hauntingly melodic in an odd sort of perspective. Although heartfelt and emotional, this song looks do be one of my dislikes of the album.
8. Hundred – A lone piano intro brings us into the soft mellow song, with Isaac still sounding sad and confused. A purely piano song, this song is still very powerful with a moving piano part and lyrics make this a memorable performance from Isaac and it really shows his talent on the piano. I’m guessing this song is about him and his lover being a hundred miles apart and missing each other, that or they are falling apart…?
9. Vienna – A really nice drifting piano part and guitar part welcomes us to Vienna. Isaac has a sort of swing feel in his vocals and so does the drumming. I really liked the moving piano moments in the verses and the build ups and build downs this song does. It’s a really nice song, not as powerful as say like Heaven Forbid or Hundred, but still does a bang up job on a song that builds layers on layers to make a song worthy of praise.
10. Dead Wrong – One of my favorite songs, and a strong one at that. I love every aspect from the guitar intro to the bouncing guitar parts and moving bass lines. And I can honestly say I love the drum roll in the chorus, it really makes the song sound darker than most of the other songs. It has a sense of urgency and chaos within oneself, truly a song that must be heard in order to understand what I mean. There is even a guitar solo at the end, and the build ups in the pre-choruses are just simply put, amazing. If you ever listen to The Fray, this is the song that should make your to download list. I can’t say enough about this song but just download it and listen to everything, its great, especially the drumming and the vocals.
11. Little House – Has that fast moving piano line that would sound similar to many other piano songs I have heard for the intro. But turns into a rock song that sounds like something out of a rock opera or something. With distorted guitars and hard rhythms and beats, this song has A LOT of classical influence with the guitar interlude and piano interludes. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s a nice change up from the soft rock we heard for about 90% of the album. And to be honest, it’s quite refreshing, though pretty short clocking in at 2:31. Listen to it; you will not be disappointed with the weird combination I just explained.
12. Trust Me – Ah the final song on “How to Save of Life”, does it disappoint our eager listeners? The answer is no, it has a lot of feeling like a lot of the songs on the album. With heavenly guitar parts, dreamy piano riffs, driving bass lines, and a jamming’ drum beat, this ever-changing song does not leave the listener disappointed. Starts out soft and near the end drives it home with a loud crescendo of epic proportions that then decrescendos into a soft ending that leaves you pretty satisfied with what The Fray has done with an amazing album.
There you have it, The Fray’s masterpiece “How to Save a Life”, there may be some skeptics who say it’s just another mainstream band with no talent. Well my friend, take one listen through the entire album and you might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I had a change of heart after listening to “How to Save a Life” and “Over My Head (Cable Car)”. Trust me, this band is going to make a name for themselves, already opening for Ben Folds on his tour, The Fray is quite the band when it comes to pop-rock, and any other genres they might be in. Give The Fray a chance, they really are quite the band and are amazing live, if they stop by in your city, give them a listen and you will not be disappointed with the energy they put out on stage.
Must Download Tracks:
-Over My Head (Cable Car)
-How to Save a Life
Overall Review of “How to Save a Life”: 4/5