Train’s ‘California 37’

21 Apr

I doubt many of you have heard of the American band Train, but I am sure most of you have heard ‘Hey, Soul Sister‘, their hit-single of the past two to three years that has dominated the summer-time radio. Train have been about since 1994, providing the radio and and summer-time soundtracks with upbeat folk-based rock tunes but have spent a lot of time in the shadows, releasing their music slowly. Well the success of the single gave the three-piece band motivation to write their sixth studio album, ‘California 37‘. The album has received mixed reviews from various music fans, making it one that is not gripping but not terrible. There are times within the album that their sound seems to be deformed by the embrace of some sort of pop element whilst trying to keep their folk roots strong.  The country feel is characteristic of the band, giving it a lively and refreshing atmosphere that is sometimes lost amongst some of the more experimental tracks. It is an odd collection that cannot be judged as a whole for there are bad parts but also really good parts – it is confusing to the senses in a way. The only coherent and enjoyable element of the album are the stunning vocals provided by Patrick Monaham, he displays excellent control that suits all the genres explored on the album making it a pleasure to listen to.

Here is a track-by-track break down to help understand the album a little better.

Lyrically, the opening track, ‘This’ll Be My Year‘, is a very weak opening. The retelling of the band’s extensive history is told in a very fragmented manner that is rushed making it quite awkward to listen to. However, the chorus does give it back it’s appeal with a very upbeat and repetitive technique that gives it a strong positive vibe – but the use of ‘maybe’ signifies an element of doubt.

Drive By‘ – the album’s leading single, watch the music video at the bottom of this post – thankfully restores all hope in Train’s talents. It carries that same pop-catchyness found in ‘Hey, Soul Sister‘, infused with the playful sounds of the acoustics characteristic of country. It is bouncy and energetic, displaying great musical skills in both the instruments and the vocals; it is a lot of fun to listen to and a good sing-along that will fit in well on any summer-soundtrack.

The country/folk sound comes back with the stripped-down and romantic ‘Feels Good At First‘. It is a charming, simple piece of music with strong vocals. There is nothing entirely striking about it, just a sweet little melody.

Ashley Monroe lends her voice on the next track, ‘Bruises’. The sound is heavily country with a lively acoustic and fast drum beat. The vocals and the lyrics make this a wonderful song to listen to with the message showing the band in their typical down-to-Earth state of mind. Simple and sweet; definitely one that can put a smile on your face.

50 Ways To Say Goodbye‘ shows the more experimental side of Train. There is a Latin influence to the track with the verse being reminiscent of Ricky Martin; energetic with a dark sensation to it. The chorus, however, is the clutter of rock-pop as they try to create a mainstream-friendly sound. It is an annoyingly catchy tune that confuses with the Latin-rock structure. I think it is one you either love or hate.

You Can Finally Meet My Mom‘ is a very gentle and melancholic track that verges on depression with its discussions of death. The whistling is slightly irritating, ruining the beauty in the piano and the edge in the electric guitar but thankfully it is consistent throughout.

Sing Together‘ takes us back the country and folk roots with the lovely ukulele strums throughout the track. It’s simplicity is very welcoming. The vocals dominate the song with complete harmony giving it a very upbeat vibe that is just nice to listen to , but also it is quite reminiscent of days sat around a camp-fire.

The next track echoes the energetic experimentations of ‘50 Ways To Say Goodbye‘. ‘Mermaid‘ is a lively track with heavy guitars and an impressive ballad-like vocal structure. It is fun to listen to with an infectious beat as the ukulele is given a lot of character in comparison to the previous track. The lyrics are that of a narrative making it a fairy-tale song that have an adventurous vibe that boarders on enchanting but probably not everyone’s cup of tea.

California 37‘ sees Train play about with electric sounds with an over-produced and angry track. This is where we see pop really sink it’s teeth into the rock and country sounds of band but just without and power. In a word, it is a dull track that just does not sound pleasant.

We Were Made For This‘ takes us to an indie-like genre with the expected country-rock twist. Once again, it is the vocals that are the striking element with the actually music being pretty stripped-down. A sweet melody with a focus on the drums all building up to a powerful middle with a classic electric guitar solo that eventually fades away and is forgotten.

We then have ‘When The Fog Rolls In‘ which opens with a classical, powerful piano piece that emphasises the heartache echoed in the vocals giving it a saddened vibe. It is a slow ballad type track that is captivating but not the strongest piece on the track; it is simple and repetitive with full emphasise on the instrumentals with a hidden choir that makes it a good background tune.

‘To Be Loved‘ ends the album with a classic country-rock sound that picks up the beat. Although, at the same time it has a very distinct pop streak running through it that makes it catchy. It is one I would have expected to have been placed earlier in the album as it is one of the better written songs but at least it lets the album finish on a good note.

Here is the music video for ‘Drive By’. Hopefully it will give you a good impression of Train, even if the album is all over the place.

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