Train’s latest release perfectly fits its title, A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat. Nearly all of the 11 tracks are exciting, and connect with the alcohol and girl aspects on a grand party boat. While there are a handful of unfortunately disappointing pieces, this album is full of energy and coasts with the band’s signature feel.
“Drink Up” begins the journey away from the shore with a flurry of drum beats and energetic clapping. This opening track focuses on living in the moment while kicking back with a bottle of beer. With the breeze hitting the sails and in the company of friends, the chorus cheers “Can’t let this moment/This moment slip away/Cause things like this don’t happen to us every day” in celebration of being on the open seas. Now because I’m under 21, please don’t inquire as to how I can comment about kicking back with a bottle of beer. Instead, just focus on the beautiful atmosphere created by the music.
Coming behind the opening track is the highly debated and centrally focused single, “Play That Song.” This was released prior to the album’s launch and it received plenty of controversy from all angles. From Digital Journal reviews to iTunes, this single has been given fist pumps, a mediocre thumbs up, and suggestive calls to read between the lines. Personally, I found this song to be well within the lines of the natural Train sound. Surrounded by horn samples and a circular acoustic guitar, frontman Patrick Monahan’s vocals emphasize a repeating request to hear music from a DJ.
The threaded theme of partying on a ship continues again with “Lottery,” a soulful, Caribbean-styled tune. An acoustic guitar sets the stage for a foot-tapping miracle of energy that ultimately seems to cut off too early. This track is only two and a half minutes long and oddly compares winning the lottery to the presence of a lover aboard the boat. In essence, there is a major contrast here between ebullient instrumentals and a perplexing choice of theme. Nevertheless, “Lottery” is one of the best in the album.
To salute the memories and the people involved in one’s journey in life, “Lost And Found” provides listeners with a hip-swiveling extravaganza. Had Train released this as a single, they easily could have received higher ratings rather than debuting “Play That Song.” “Here’s to the time we had/Here’s to the lines we crossed/Here’s to the ones we waited on and the ones we lost” is chanted in a conga line of enthused friends on the boat. Even if the vessel were to sink, time has gifted the people on deck with a wonderful life, and the trumpets and drums toot and tap aloud with gratitude.
Another song that would have been fantastic on its own is “Working Girl.” Monahan’s spirit within him dynamically worships and supports his lover who busts her butt in her profession. The rock vibe with an electric guitar, thundering drums, and a keyboard add to the appreciation for the girl’s contributions to sustain the power of their connection and lifestyle.
My favorite piece of the album was the closing track, “You Better Believe.” Piano keys methodically aid Monahan in performing a powerful message evoking self-confidence and channeling peace into a girl who he loves dearly. Adding adages into this soulful piece like “Just give it some time/look for a sign/and you’ll be just fine” express wholesome proverbial desires that he wishes to cleanse and sooth his girl with. If any listener had to keep just one song out of all 11, this would have to be the one.
Even though “You Better Believe” does not really reflect much of the party boat atmosphere, it spotlights a primary focus of the album. This is something that I can’t say for other songs included.
“Silver Dollar,” another track that focuses on money, is the largest contrast from all of the other songs. With horn sections and R&B-like rhythms, the message openly encourages the listener to spend whatever dime a man has on his woman. When listening to this piece, I’m conflicted because I really enjoy the trumpets and the message, but all I hear is “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason Derulo. It just isn’t original like the previous songs of the album, which takes away from their creativity. This is also one of the small holes in the ship of Train.
Priscilla Renea joins Train for “Loverman” and this is another song that is difficult to explain. Thematically, this ditty fits the album’s topics, yet there are elements on here that are just discordant. Renea’s voice is muffled with some grainy, echoey filter and it partially feels like a rip-off sound of Gwen Stefani. Furthermore, an acoustic guitar randomly chimes in between the verses and choruses, and there just isn’t any consistency in its placement.
When something is out of place in a song, it completely captivates my curiosity because I then begin to fixate on why a particular voice or harmony or instrument seems off to me. In our lives there are just places and people that we simply do not like, yet we cannot put our finger on why; this next song is my problem.
“Valentine” begins with a bass harmony of hums and bums and is then followed by a tenor voice delivering the first verse. Honestly, the singing doesn’t sound poor and the harmonies between the backup vocals are spot on; I just do not care for this song. It’s not that it’s overly complicated, it’s just not extremely fresh to the ears.
Remaining tracks, “What Good is Saturday” and “The News” are both average songs that serve primarily as fillers for the album. They are energetic, but not enough to rock the head nod or dance around. They both carry ideals of never wanting to be alone without a lover, but the lyrics are not very impactful and leave room to grow.
As a whole, Train delivered a semi-strong album that lands in the middle (in terms of quality) for their discography. Unlike an album that would earn a seven or higher, this package simply does not carry enough value to be a “must buy.” For that reason, Train has landed in the 6 pool and can hopefully come out with some new material before the year is out.
Pop I Sunken Forrest