The Fray

Helios

Written by: PP on 13/03/2014 20:43:09

Most professional critics have called "Helios", the fourth studio album by pop rockers The Fray a mediocre, forgettable record. Me, on the other hand, relish their return to the "A Rush Of Blood To The Head"-era Coldplay worship after the incredibly generic and bland "The Fray" from 2009. Yes, they released "Scars & Stories" two years ago, but I was so dismayed by how formulaic "The Fray" was in 2009 that I had all but written off the band. If I wanted to listen to boring pop music with hints of rock, I'd put on Keane and pretend like it's good.

Luckily "Helios" seems like a turnaround for the band in many ways, where they've added more flesh to the bone. They're still decisively pop rock, but this time the piano-driven melodies have been amended with a slightly more alternative-rock based approach. This means that despite their soundscapes being stadium-sized and driven by a sense of grandeur, they don't feel pretentious or without substance, thanks to an excellent vocal performance by Isaac Slade. "Hold My Hand" is irresistible thanks to his delivery, whereas "Hurricane" is a typical pop rocker but nonetheless has a far-reaching sound. "Keep On Wanting" is an uplifting track with another great vocal performance complemented by the choral-style backing vocals. Generally, the usage of piano has been reduced to a smaller role, and there's a bigger reliance on the traditional rock instrumentation. That's not to say any of this is particularly complex, because it is not, but it works in the format that it is intended to: for a pop rock record that sounds big without trying too hard to sound big.

That's one of the key reasons why "Helios" is worthy of a listen also for those that normally shun pop rock: it has substance. Though depth might not be the right word to use in connection with The Fray's music, at least this material is what I'd associate with solid pop rock more so than what I normally here in the radio. It's the little things - the slightly strained voice of Slade on the hits, the stronger reliance on guitars - that makes the difference to past material. If you ever thought Coldplay were becoming too experimental for their own good ("Mylo Xyloto" was a great album, but not exactly one you'd assume a dime-a-dozen pop rock band to write), then "Helios" by The Fray is exactly what you're looking for.

Download: Hold My Hand, Hurricane, Keep On Wanting
For the fans of: Coldplay, Band Of Horses
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.02.2014
Epic Records

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