It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. Albums of carols and holiday standards, and decadally themed greatest hits anthologies, in every store. Every year, as the available shopping days until Christmas diminish, greatest hits and best of compilations flood the market, providing consumers with easy gift ideas. It has been two years since pop-rockers, The Fray, had a fresh product on the shelves and, just in time for the festive season, the Coloradoan quartet release their best of compilation, Through the Years: The Best of The Fray.
Beyond the commercial appeal best of compilations present, they also provide artists with an opportunity to make a statement that extends beyond the context of a regular studio album or EP, outlining who they are, who they’ve been, and the tracks they are most proud of that listener’s mightn’t have been attentive towards. The songs collected on this record are heavily skewed towards The Fray’s first two albums, accounting for seven of the twelve tracks. Three tracks – Singing Low, Corners, and Changing Tides – are new releases, their synth-pop marking a substantial – though not drastic – change in musical direction. This leaves two songs to represent half of The Fray’s albums, and their EPs don’t even get a look in.
As is to be expected the breakthrough hit, Over My Head (Cable Car), is represented and, fittingly, introduces the collection. A cover of Kayne West’s Heartless, taken from the deluxe edition of their self-titled second album and released as a single in 2009, demonstrates the group’s versatility. If it weren’t for the inclusion of the three new tracks, Through the Years would simply be a truncated singles collection. Because of this, the album fails to say anything new, or to inform the listener of the musical moments The Fray are most proud of, to signal the journey they have taken as a band and illustrate their musical progression. Through the Years is a collection for those who like The Fray they’ve heard on the radio – but not enough to buy an album before – and the die-hard fans.