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'Helios' is an ambitious album for The Fray

By Brett Steinberg
On February 26, 2014

Every artist must go through stages of experimentation and growth. Bob Dylan went from acoustic to electric, Billy Joel went pop with "We Didn't Start The Fire," and now The Fray have taken a new direction with their new album "Helios."
In this 11-song album, The Fray fuses their core sound with more ambitious melodies and instrumentations. They have embraced the expanded pallet of sound brought forth by the wave of electronic music's influence on pop music.
The Fray includes the piano in many tracks, but it does not act as the main instrument in all of the songs. The intro track to the record, "Hold My Hand," starts with a piano riff, but it soon is met with a loud kick and synth funk bass. This sets the tone of the album.
For a band that has found success over their past three albums with their pop/rock niche, it was a risk creating an album with funky songs like "Give It Away" and the uppity pop/folk song, "Love Don't Die," but it works. Their lyrics interwoven in the music holds similar themes to past Fray songs with a lighter edge and their songwriting has never been stronger.
The fourth song "Closer To Me" brings back a nostalgic, classic Fray sound with guitar pickings and harmonies reminiscent of songs found on their debut album. Songs like these show that The Fray know exactly what they're doing on "Helios." They know when to include electronic sounds and when to back up and make it more organic.
A fantastic and notable track on this album is "Our Last Days," in which the lead singer, Isaac Slade, powerfully sings "These hearts will burn 'til our last days," basically reaffirming his love for his lover no matter what turbulence they've gone through.
This album is a stand against being shackled down by one sound in their music or by empathy in their personal lives, and embraces the idea of innovation and love. Lyrics in songs like "Give It Away"-"Free, love is free, love is free / why don't you give it away?"-and "Break Your Plans"-"There's no guarantee we'll make it or make this thing right, but break your plans for me tonight"-and their new sound both represent The Fray's declaration of artistic and personal freedom.
The Fray's new album "Helios" pushes the band into territory they are not familiar with, but the outcome is a more powerful version of the band. The vocals are much stronger and less reliant on Slade's falsetto and the production culminates into a beautiful hybrid, which meshes acoustic pop/rock with the loud kick and high synth elements of EDM.
Notable tracks on this album include: "Hold My Hand," "Love Don't Die," "Hurricane," and "Our Last Days"
I give this album a rating of 9/10. The album shows a variety and an expansion of sound, yet not a complete cohesiveness or storyline as their past albums have conveyed. Still, the record has an overall message of pushing through the rough times to realize that love is the answer to our trials and tribulations. It is the most uplifting Fray record yet and makes you want to dance and take a long, thoughtful car ride all at the same time.

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