Of all the pop bands that rose and fell during the ‘90s, think about the ones you’d expect to be major influences on piano-driven groups of today. R.E.M.? Nope. Third Eye Blind? Uh-uh. Try Hanson. That’s right, the three youngsters with hearts of gold and pre-pubescent urges to spew gibberish (read as: “Mmmbop” reference) are the main shades you hear in the newest, self-titled release from Denver quartet the Fray. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the Hanson brothers have turned themselves into an intriguing little indie band, but Fray vocalist Isaac Slade sounds so much like Hanson pianist Taylor that it’s frightening.
That particular vocal quality isn’t hard to define; just think of a slightly effeminate dude with the slightest bit of roughness to his voice, like a 15-year-old who just shaved for the first time. This release from the Fray makes it evident that the group is never going to write a groundbreaking album or turn the world of pop on its head, but it does show promise. The group has a rudimentary grasp on melody, and Slade’s vocals are intriguing enough to at least keep you listening, even if it’s for the sole purpose of trying to figure out how much he sounds like Hanson.
Unlike the group’s last release, the first single from the record is without a doubt the best track on the album. Whereas on 2005’s How To Save a Life, the lead single was the unbearably nasally “Over My Head,” “You Found Me” is a stuttering, minor-chord driven jaunt through sentimental piano textures, sustained power chords and perhaps the most oddly placed drum shuffle in mainstream music history in the second verse. It works though, as evidenced by the song’s appearance in promos for the ABC drama “Lost.”
All in all, it’s the darker, minor-chord-heavy aspects that work the best on the album, like “Say When,” which features an increasingly tense vocal melody in the verses that explodes in Slade’s best Chris Martin impression in the chorus. The album drags a bit at the end, with “Ungodly Hour,” (which is ungodly boring) and “We Build Then We Break,” but luckily, the closer, “Happiness,” at least ends on a good note, with a slick hook meant to stay in your head long after you’ve stopped listening to it. Ultimately, the record is a satisfying, if a bit generic, pop album, full of catchy choruses, anthemic tracks (see “Never Say Never”) and songs constructed with just enough emotion and sensitivity to warrant placement on an upcoming episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
The Fray’s sophomore album drops today.
Has anyone heard this cd yet? I don’t think the Fray sound like Hanson on their other songs I have heard (How to save a Life, Over My Head) so it would be interesting if all of a sudden the singers voice NOW sounds like Taylor. Although, it almost seems like this author might not heave heard Hanson in a while? He knows they are indie but compares Taylor’s voice to that of a 15 year old, which I don’t think Taylor has sounded like in 10 or so years. What do you think?