The Fray’s third album, Scars & Stories, is not exactly what one would expect from a band that has become famous for melodramatic and solemn songs about love and loss such as, “Over My Head (Cable Car)”, “How to Save a Life”, and “Never Say Never.” Their less-than-stellar, self-titled second album was called “nothing new” by Rolling Stone, and many other critics agreed that the album was too similar to their debut to make an impact. It seems that those comments might have affected the band’s approach to creating music this time around. To start, band members travelled the world before beginning to write and record songs. “Heartbeat”, “1961” and “Munich” are all inspired by places they traveled to, like Uganda, Berlin, and Switzerland. In addition, The Fray tapped producer Brendan O’Brien (best known for working with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam) and recorded in Nashville. The changes have given the music a more gritty and aggressive edge.

The Fray isn’t known for extraordinarily intricate lyrics, but they do know how to make emotionally charged music. Isaac Slade’s singing is overwrought with passion, and every song feels like a poignant experience. The band is far from afraid of sounding vulnerable, and their unabashed honesty is one of their most boldly defining traits. “The Fighter” revolves around the idea of not being able to truly live unless you face your doubts and demons. Slade wrote the closing song, “Be Still” after a phone call with his brother Micah, who was having trouble sleeping. Slade felt he had failed in saying the right thing to comfort Micah, so he wrote the song intending it only for his brother. “The Wind” is a song that bassist and co-founder, Joe King, wrote immediately after leaving the courtroom where he ended his marriage. King also sings on the track “Rainy Zurich”, which was inspired by loneliness and loss of feeling. His voice is a pleasant surprise that makes “Rainy Zurich” one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Scars & Stories showcases the band’s growth over the last few years. They have placed their pasts and their lives out on the table, unafraid to talk about struggles and issues that most people don’t enjoy confronting. As a result, the work and soul put into the album is a consistent presence in the songs—the title couldn’t be more fitting.

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