Artist: The Fray

Title: Scars & Stories

Label: Epic

The Fray's newest album, Scars & Stories is the bands third album but the first recorded and mixed by Epic Records vice president, Brendan O'Brian. The music is more produced than the first two albums but it still allows for the heart of the songs to take center stage.  

The band used part of their budget for the album to travel and see the world, writing about what they experienced. All together they wrote over 70 songs and selected the best 12 for the project. Two of the songs, "Munich" and "Zurich" are titled after the cities that the band wrote the songs in. In interviews and concerts the band shares background for the traveling stories. The opening track, "Heartbeat" was inspired after a visit to Rwanda talking with a woman who had survived the genocides.  

The album name itself, Scars & Stories, came from one of the songs that didn't make the album. Isaac Slade, the lead singer, explained its significance during a concert in Boston.  

"We've been through a lot of stuff personally, and as band we're still together, and I think we like the idea of scars you know, because they're healed you know. They are not like wounds necessarily, but they're still kind of a road map of where you been, and sometimes kinda point to where you want to go."  

This combination of both scars and traveling stories is emotional and moving. It isn't the typical pop/rock album to keep you awake on a road trip, but it is the music that you want to keep listening to on a quiet evening or a moody, overcast weekend. The lyrics take note of the hardships of life but also note that the struggle isn't over and that we should keep pushing on. In the song "The Fighter" we are reminded "What breaks our bones is not the load you're carrying, what breaks you down is all in how you carry."  

The album ends with a hauntingly beautiful piano song, "Be Still," that could easily be an expansion of the first line of Psalm 46:10. Whether or not the band intended it to be spiritual, the essence of being with someone in pain and helping them to pass through the darkness without panic is very healing and Christlike.  

*This review first published 2/21/2012

**Listen to this album on Spotify