Album: a girl a bottle a boat
Label: Columbia Records
Highlight Tracks: “Play That Song,” “Lost and Found,” “You Better Believe”
Train is back with more easy-listening, summer pop fare that confuses both fans and casual listeners alike.
Having grown up listening to hits such as “Drops of Jupiter” and “Hey, Soul Sister,” it’s hard to believe that a girl a bottle a boat is their 10th studio album. Since the release of “Hey, Soul Sister” in 2009, the group has maintained a more lighthearted and cheerful sound. If you’re looking for some “pick-me-up” music, Train’s current offerings will suit that purpose nicely.
Frontman Pat Monahan’s vocals transport listeners to a time of carefree, relaxing summers and young love. a girl a bottle a boat takes them on a journey to a place where girls, alcohol and boat rides are in abundance.
But by the end of the album, you’ll either want to get on a boat yourself or poke your eyes out. The fluffy, surface-level teen pop tracks are unoriginal and leave much to be desired.
a girl a bottle a boat could be classified as an identity crisis. Even the album cover, which features a scantily-clad blonde woman holding an American flag on a boat, is representative of Train’s struggle to stay relevant in the ever-crowded pop market. While slightly irrelevant to this review, it’s unfortunate that the sexualization of women has become the norm in the music industry.
The summer anthem “Drink Up” is followed by the more low-key “Play That Song," whose melody is loosely based around “Blue Moon,” a beginner’s piano piece. An acoustic introduction was a smoother intro to the song than a bass beat. Thanks to Monahan’s smooth voice, the soaring chorus will easily lift your mood.
“Working Girl” is one of the weak points of the album. Constant repetition of the line “I’m in love with a working girl” sounds desperate and reminiscent of teenage angst. It’s a cringe-worthy record with lines such as “So don't expect me to chase you babe/If you ain't sweet like aspartame.” Come on, it’s the 21st century. Do women still need to be “sweet” in order to be desirable?
Overall, the lyrics in a girl a bottle a boat lack substance. The word selection is weak and reveals little thought. While the album is intended for easy listening, more effort could have been made to expand beyond pop music clichés such as partying and falling in love. With poorly written material, the music becomes emotionless and falls flat.
So why did the group feel the need to depart from their original rock sound? Even with the influx of pop music flooding the airwaves, that doesn’t mean that Train needs to join the masses. In fact, staying with their original sound might have even worked to their advantage.
Continuing with the rest of the album, “Lost and Found” serves as an ode to the end of summer. The use of trumpets and percussion instruments added another layer of sound and the catchy, syncopated beat will keep listeners hooked.
The piano ballad “You Better Believe” is an unexpected and serious conclusion, contrasting from the album’s upbeat pop tracks. It conveys a cookie-cutter message, acknowledging that everything will be alright. Though generic, you can’t help but feel a sense of optimism by the end of the song.
Fans who had hoped for more emotional lyrics and a multi-layered sound will be disappointed by a girl a bottle a boat. For better or worse, Train seems to have found its calling in the crowded teen pop market.
Put simply, the band would be much better off returning to their rock roots. Long are the days when their lyrics evoked emotion and made listeners ponder the meaning behind their music.
With this album, the group’s artistic direction remains unclear; however, one could give them extra points for trying.
Listen to Train’s a girl a bottle a boat on iTunes or Spotify.