The Fray

The Fray is the modern-rock equivalent of Everybody Loves Raymond, a series that approached everyday situations with a shrewd exactitude, managing to be salient without resorting to bawdiness or gimmickry. Even Raymond's detractors were eventually disarmed by the show's benign disposition and lack of pretense.

The Fray is sure to elicit a similar reaction with its excellent major-label debut, How to Save a Life. Isaac Slade's airy tenor breathes life into introspective, forlorn narratives and inspiriting appeals touching on everything from futilely attempting to intervene for a friend ("How to Save a Life") to contending with the anxiety of ending up alone ("Heaven Forbid") to trying to outrun the past ("Fall Away"). And Life is tastefully fleshed out with subtle guitar flourishes and a rhythm section whose acute sense of dynamics perfectly complement Slade's austere piano runs.

As long as the act continues to stave off pretension, it will remain respectably above the fray -- you know, the kind of band that everybody can't help but love.


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