Buoyancy in Train’s “A Girl A Bottle A Boat”
Back in the late 2000s, when pop music was growing out of its rebellious rock phase and into a hip hop, electro sound, Train exploded into the top charts with “Hey, Soul Sister”, throwing back to the early 2000s sound with its jaunty ukulele strumming. Now, eight years later, the band is hoping to bounce back with “A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat,” an album that challenges the dauntless spirits of the 2009 album but is streamlined with today’s contemporary styles. Though the album introduces genres new to the band’s music, it aims to appeal to older fans who will be able to reminisce on the past.
Based on the popular 1938 “Heart and Soul”, “Play That Song”, is slower and conveys an intimacy not found in “Drink Up.” While previous songs have the quality of a roller coaster’s highs and lows, “Play That Song” has the soft rocking of boat with its smaller changes in tempo and moderate beat. Monahan, lead singer, adopts a toned down country accent that complements the soulful long notes. In the instrumentals, the guitar is dominant over the supporting piano but becomes overshadowed by the heavier beat in the following verses. “Play That Song” is the classic pop love song with a dash of country, reminiscent of Train’s older albums.
Challenging the limits of the album, “The News” is an edgier, modern pop song that utilizes a faster beat, a keyboard and a sharp guitar sound. It’s hopeful, well paced, and has a fast flow of lyrics that combines with the clicking guitar sound to create a rhythmic effect. Though the structure of the song is mostly uniform, the chorus is intriguing, the definite highlight. Upon first listening, “The News” seems like an innocent song of love and good news, but the singsong lyrics reveal a darker reality where “Just in case I don’t make” is literal. “Are you getting me? They think I’m crazy.” Suddenly, the news become headlines, “but baby, this cold white straight jacket don’t even phase me.” The song has a catchy, bad-boy style that fits surprisingly well with the album and adds a mischievous touch.
Meanwhile, “Lottery” kicks off with a welcoming, mellow guitar tune, but rapidly develops into a pop song with a staccato beat. The lyrics mimic the rhythm like a metronome as the song accelerates in tempo, a synthetic rhythm. With rests found between each word and uniformity in pulse, there’s an almost hypnotic repetition that builds up the song. The preceding verse sounds almost dizzying until it reaches the chorus, where there’s a sudden freedom when it breaks into a tropical groove of bongo drums, maracas, and trumpets. A carefree song, Train invites the listener into a paradise as “every time you’re here with me, it’s like I’ve won the lottery. You make me feel free.” “Lottery” is a joyful escape into the Caribbean.
“You Better Believe” is the classic ballad song to close out the album on an inspirational note. The song’s message is simple but profound- sometimes we feel alone in our problems, but times will always get better. In a time where many are unhappy with life, Train writes heartfelt lyrics to support others, a seemingly trivial gesture that accomplishes so much more. As the song progresses, the audience get a glimpse of the struggles Train dealt with in regards to past fame and desire for glory. “You Better Better Believe” is modest, sincere, a fitting ending to the otherwise adventurous album.
With “A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat”, Train is able to frame the very uplifting feelings they want to evoke while effectively utilizing a variety of instruments and genres. The album displays an impressive diversity of songs that flow well. And although some may scoff at the liveliness pervasive in all the songs, Train’s authenticity is undeniable. If you aren’t feeling the band’s vibes, the lyrics can be a bit corny, but if you are, then Train provides a wholesome positivity.
Written by Jamie Chen, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of iTunes