The Fray’s fourth album continues to provide the piano- and guitar-driven pop songs they are known for. Isaac Slade’s distinct voice gives the songs a sense of yearning and optimism. For the first time, Isaac Slade and Joe King take a backseat on the songwriting. Each song here has a collaborator, from OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Relient K’s Matt Thiessen, and Aqualung’s Matt Hales to pop songwriters who have composed hits for Katy Perry, Madonna, and Switchfoot.
The promise and work involved in long-term relationships run through this album. The opening lines begin with a history lesson, “I found a picture in my basement/My face a hundred years ago/But I don't wanna do like he did/So full of pride and all alone.” The rest of the album is striving toward the hope of a different path. “Break Your Plans” is a call to try again in a strained romance. “Shadow and a Dancer” makes the countercultural case that rather than fading away, love gets stronger with time and commitment. Helios is one of the few pop albums to make the case that a deeper love is not easy. (Epic)