Squawk Radio

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Liz Gives You Valentine's Day Music of a Different Sort

In light of Valentine’s Day this week, I originally thought I’d do a Sunday Music Blog about songs for lovers and feature some old standbys like Jackie Gleason (no, I’m serious), Tony Bennett and Dino. But I changed my mind this week, because I’ve been listening A LOT to The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.” Valentines these songs ain’t, since a good many of them deal with the loss of love or the fear that love is about to bolt. But the music is absolutely beautiful, and let’s face it--a lot of people out there are dreading the big VD this year.

The Fray are another band I discovered via satellite radio, thanks to the tune “Over My Head.” After hearing that song a total of one time, I bought “How to Save a Life.” Buying a CD based on the hearing of one song is often a gamble that leaves me with a CD that has only one good song on it. Not so “How to Save a Life.” The entire collection is absolutely wonderful.

Isaac Slade’s piano proliferates, but acoustic and electric guitar and drums all definitely find their way into the mix. Slade’s somewhat rough voice is a nice counter to his fluid piano and also makes for a nice contrast to the extremely melodic tunes. Overall, the music is smooth and mellow and excellent for rainy weather and winter days, which may be why I’ve been playing the CD in the car so much lately. But there are also selections in addition to “Over My Head” (which remains my fave) like “She Is” and “Little House” that rock quite comfortably. More often than not, however, with songs like “Vienna” and “Trust Me,” it’s just beautiful, contemplative music to listen to.

Once again, I’m hard pressed to really define the band’s sound. I could say they're Bruce Hornsby without the sap (sorry, Bruce Hornsby fans), but even that would be doing the band a disservice. The closest comparison I can think of would be Rufus Wainwright, though Rufus has a more individual sound than the Fray, and there’s a uniformity to the Fray’s songs that is absent in Wainwright’s. But it’s not an unpleasant or lazy uniformity. More like a nice, continuous flow of exceptionally good music that’s never interrupted. There’s just not a bad song on the album.

No, they’re not necessarily love songs--at least not the way we tend to define love songs. They are more songs of loss than of love. But neither are they hopeless songs. You get the feeling after listening to this album that it’s not about love ending. It’s about starting over again. It’s about something we all go through at some point in our love lives, the precursor to finding the one with whom we will ultimately remain. As Slade sings in “Heaven Forbid”:

“Heaven forbid you end up alone and don’t know why.
Hold on tight, wait for tomorrow, you’ll be all right.”

And sometimes, regardless of whether we’re single or committed, looking for love or about to lose it, those are words that will get us through to the next day. And, if necessary, to the next love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:28 AM