Released in 2012, Scars & Stories saw the Fray expanding on the size and scope of their signature blend of American trad rock-meets-'90s alt-pop with the aid of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen producer Brendan O'Brien. For 2014's Helios, the band enlisted help from Stuart Price (the Killers, Madonna), and his electronic flourishes serve as the driving force behind their fourth long-player. Helios begins innocuously enough with "Hold My Hand," a straight-up, anthem generator-spawned arm-waver that pairs a safe, circular, entirely familiar chord progression with a melody that returns the favor (a description that applies to most if not all of the ten songs that follow), before unleashing the album's first single, "Love Don't Die," a digitized boot-stomper that leans hard on the Kings of Leon/Black Keys side of the Fray spectrum. Flirtations with disco ("Give It Away") and pure Killers-cloned electro-pop ("Hurricane") follow, but the Fray never sound as comfortable as they do when they're dishing out relatively generic yet undeniably impassioned slabs of Springsteen, Train, Goo Goo Dolls, and Coldplay-inspired, open-highway treacle like "Our Last Days" and "Wherever This Goes." Even the middling power ballad "Break Your Plans" and the easy and convivial "Wherever This Goes," the latter a slick mash-up of the Lumineers "Ho Hey" and something off of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, outshine Helios' more experimental (sonically speaking) moments, due in large part to the fact that they sound like the work of a band, and not a band working way too hard to sound relevant.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger