The Fray

by: The Fray

The Fray's sophomore release picks up where How to Save a Life left off, reprising the same blend of piano-led ballads and midtempo pop/rock that helped establish the band in 2005. International tours and platinum-selling singles may have turned the Fray into a superstar act, but the actual songcraft remains virtually unchanged, with songs like "You Found Me" and "Enough for Now" sounding eerily similar to their predecessors. Those parallels are strengthened by producers Aaron Johnson and Mike Flynn, both of whom helmed How to Save a Life and repeat the job here to predictable effect. What's different, then, is the occasional "widening" of the Fray' s sound; the rock numbers are slightly louder (culminating in a percussive, distorted breakdown during "We Build Then We Break"), and the ballads somewhat softer, with "Ungodly Hour" standing out as the sparsest of the bunch. The band seems uncomfortable with either extreme, however, either overshooting the rockers or reducing the ballads to little more than Isaac Slade's zealous vocals, which are often so garbled with angsty passion that they might as well be caricaturing the American accent. Like the rest of his bandmates, Slade is most comfortable in the middle, where the Fray comfortably churn out the album's best numbers: the melancholy, minor-keyed "Absolute"; "Syndicate" (whose guitar riff in 6/4 time is perhaps the disc's quirkiest moment); and "You Found Me." It's testament to the band's appeal that "You Found Me" became a Top Ten single before The Fray was even released, but that likely speaks to its familiarity -- this is, after all, the equivalent of How to Save a Life, Pt. 2 -- rather than any purported originality. ~ Andrew Leahey

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