Number Nine. The Fray – How To Save A Life (2005)
How on earth did this make the top ten? Well, I used to consider it one of my favorite albums ever, and it was a significant part of my early post-highschool days, so I suppose I can’t abandon it now. I discovered The Fray at the height of my radio days, before I started to get fed up with the decadence found therein. Indeed, the members of The Fray were apparently subtle Christians, and at least seemed to refrain from said decadence.
The heavy use of piano (but without Coldplay’s depressing and/or vague lyrics) was especially attractive to me, and I spent some time figuring out how to play along to some of the songs (although, looking back, not as much as you might have thought). I also appreciated some of the simple but poignant lyrical themes. Today I dug out an amusing “review” from my old personal myspace over three years ago:
The guys of The Frayare certainly not rockers, and there is a little repetitiveness in the soft, slow music. I don’t mind so much because I like the style and because there’s a lot of piano, and there’s enough variety for me. Most of the songs are not instantly catchy, but rather the type that grow on you after the third or fourth listen. While the style may be repetitive, they often use unconventional chord patterns and melodic rhythms. And there is one “rock” song (“Little House”).
There are songs about relationship struggles, of course (for example, the hit “Over My Head”), but this includes a creative angle. “All At Once” questions whether or not a girl is the one, or if he should wait for someone better, reminding that “perfection will not come.” “How to Save a Life” is apparently about trying to counsel someone out of a drug addiction, and “Fall Away” is about how the past will catch up with you if you don’t deal with it.
…If you likecatchy piano-led pop,How to Save a Lifeis the CD for you.
This is the album that got me through three years of singleness, as I applied the different lyrics of pursuit and questioning to whatever girl I happened to be shyly crushing on (See, on this song he’s pursuing her, and on the next song, he’s not sure, and then he goes away, and then he realizes he was “Dead Wrong”, and then…). The overplayed radio singles at the front of the disc hide some beautiful ballads that appear later. The simple encouragement of “Heaven Forbid,” the innocent pursuit of “Look After You”… it all still makes me smile. And nice-sounding doesn’t imply cookie-cutter; the stripped-down “Hundred” has a 55-second piano intro, for goodness’ sake!
I actually thought Coldplay’s last CD was far more brilliant than The Fray’s follow-up album that came out earlier this year, but How To Save A Life still represents the peak of my era of listening to mainstream radio. And every now and then, when my forays into hardcore or indie dissipate into experimental nothingness, I return to this album for a nice, refreshing dose of fluid piano pop.
Random Top Ten: Radio Songs I Purchased From iTunes Because I Liked Them At The Time But Now I Pretty Much Never Ever Listen To Them
10. Saosin – You’re Not Alone
9. Bon Jovi – Who Says You Can’t Go Home?
8. Staind – Right Here
7. Seether – Broken
6. Rascal Flatts – Bless The Broken Road
5. Breaking Benjamin – Diary Of Jane
4. Yellowcard – Only One
3. 3 Doors Down – Here Without You
2. Evanescence – Bring Me To Life
1. Daniel Powter – Bad Day
My Most Important Albums Of The Decade
Week of 10/18 – Honorable Mentions (#14-#11)
Week of 10/25 – #10. Lord of the Rings
Week of 11/1 – #9. How To Save A Life
Week of 11/8 – #8. The Beautiful Letdown
Week of 11/15 – #7. Awakened
Week of 11/22 – #6. MMHMM
Week of 11/29 – #5. The Alchemy Index
Week of 12/6 – #4. A Collision
Week of 12/13 – #3. Brother, Sister
Week of 12/20 – #2. Define The Great Line
Week of 12/27 – #1. All The Houses Look The Same