29. The Fray

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 29 is The Fray.


I have to give credit to my wife here. In November of 2005, before anyone—or at least anyone we knew—had ever heard of The Fray, Jessie was standing front row at a concert singing along word-for-word to the likes of “She Is”, “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and the rest of their songs from their How to Save a Life album, which hadn’t even been out for two months. I was standing by her side and loved what I heard—both from her and them.

That all took place at Allegheny College. The Fray were opening for Ben Folds (Spoiler Alert! You’ll hear more from him later in the MM 30 at 30 Countdown). There was no way The Fray were going to steal a show headlined by Ben Folds, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only new fan they gained that night.

That How to Save a Life album quickly became a soundtrack of that fall season and while The Fray has gone on to enjoy mainstream pop-rock  success, it was that intimate concert experience and their debut album that still resonate most strongly with me today. Not surprisingly, seven tracks from How to Save a Life made the cut for the 30 at 30 compilation. The Fray’s piano-driven, mid-tempo rock and emotional lyrics have an epic quality to them, as if they are scoring scenes from a heartfelt movie .

One of my personal favorite lyrics comes from “Over My Head (Cable Car):

Everyone knows I’m in
Over my head
Over my head
With eight seconds left in overtime
She’s on your mind
She’s on your mind

The idea of a girl being on my mind with eight seconds left in overtime was such a powerful concept that that this song really resonated with me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge sports fan. I set my calendar by major events like the NCAA Tournament and NBA playoffs and go out of my way to stay conflict free for Michigan Wolverines Saturdays and Oakland Raiders Sundays during football season. But as much as I love sports, that game is going to end. This relationship is not. And that lyric from The Fray really puts that into perspective.

Prior to the aforementioned How to Save a Life, The Fray had released an EP called Reason in 2003, which landed three tracks on this compilation, including the thought-provoking “Unsaid” that I recommend for anyone in a relationship. It deals with the topic of communication, something Jessie and I pride ourselves on to the point that we recently spoke at an Engagement Encounter about our different communication styles and how we make that work in our marriage.

The band released a self-titled album in 2009, featuring six songs that landed on this compilation, including the opener “Happiness”, which ruminates on the subject and offers some interesting insights on the age old concept of the pursuit of happiness.

The Fray released “Scars & Stories” in 2012. Only four tracks from that album made the cut, but “Be Still” serves as a fantastic closing track to this compilation, a raw, somber meditation-ready song that clocks in at a brief but powerful 2:49.  “Be still and know that I’m with you / Be still and know I am.” Reportedly this song was written by The Fray’s lead vocalist as a lullaby for his little brother. Depending on my mood and mindset when listening to it, I sometimes hear the “I” in this song as my own,  but at other times, I hear it as the voice of God comforting me.

The Fray has enjoyed plenty of commercial success since that night at Allegheny nearly 10 years ago. Still, as it did on that night, The Fray’s music at its best consistently makes me want to do two things: sing along to the catchy, memorable choruses and think about my life and relationships.

MM 30 at 30: The Fray tracklist* (finalized Oct. 15, 2013):
1. Happiness
2. Heartbeat
3. She Is
4. Over My Head (Cable Car)
5. Run For Your Life
6. Without Reason
7. You Found Me
8. Look After You
9. Absolute
10. Syndicate
11. All At Once
12. Unsaid
13. Vienna
14. Fall Away
15. How to Save a Life
16. Never Say Never
17. Heaven Forbid
18. Ungodly Hour
19. 48 to Go
20. Be Still

*The Fray’s most recent album, Helios, came out after I had already compiled the 30 at 30 mix, so none of those songs were considered for the mix.

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