Album review: Train’s ‘A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat’

Train kicked off 2017 with its 10th full-length album, A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat. Released on Jan. 27, the record contains 11 fresh and upbeat songs that will appeal to both old school Train fans and first-time listeners.

In its latest release, the band takes a turn from its classic rock vibe and produces a number of hip and uplifting songs. Lead singer Pat Monahan’s voice rings through on every track, giving listeners a taste of the original Train music they love.

Train dabbles in different styles of instrumentals and musical genres. In tracks like “Lottery” and “Lost and Found,” the band incorporates Caribbean and Latin elements by including bongo drumlines and sporadic trumpet melodies. “Lottery” contains an especially fun and danceable sound, especially during an upbeat drum solo leading into the cheerful chorus, where a piano tune and maracas add to the mix. Train creates high-energy and fun tracks, making them perfect for activities like dance parties or even road trips to the beach.

The lyrics in the songs of A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat don’t always revolve around the light-hearted romantic themes Train is known for. One song in particular, “Working Girl,” contains a strong feminist approach. The song focuses on a hardworking woman who refuses to settle for a man who disrespects her choices. This message of female empowerment is appealing to me, and to many in my generation, especially due to its relevance to today’s pressing political and social issues.

In addition, the band takes novel approaches to classic genres. In particular, one of the album’s lead singles, “Play That Song,” finds roots in Hoagy Carmichael’s “Heart and Soul.” The song starts off with a slow and flowing melody, containing only Monahan’s voice and acoustic guitar, and then diverges into a more fast-paced and catchy groove, with a heavier beat and a steady drumline on top.

Every song on the album contains a specific and moving beat drop. From a more intense drumbeat or the addition of a horn or synthetic rhythm, the drops are a captivating part of getting lost in the music. Here, Train uses more elements than ever in its career, including alternative and pop-based sounds like electric, synthetic whoops and grooves. They also use breaks in melodies, which add a dramatic flair to songs, as well as people humming in the background of songs.

The album also houses a good mix of unique songs that flow very well with one another; every song complements the next. The album contains a diverse array, from charismatic jams such as “Drink Up,” to the band’s classic, slow, romantic numbers, such as “You Better Believe.”

Personally, I never really considered myself a huge Train fan, but after listening to this album, I was very pleasantly surprised by the band’s new material. The music had aspects from three of my favorite genres: alternative, reggae and pop. Still, some of the songs have a little too much going on within them. In “What Good is Saturday” in particular, the drumline is overpowering, especially because the vocals are also exceptionally loud and fast. I found it hard to pick up on the lyrics and the overall feel of the song.

Still, it is very commendable for a band made up of middle-aged individuals to attempt to make mainstream music and at the same time add in subtle aspects that make songs distinguishably their own.

A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat, gets a 7 out of 10. The “Play That Song Tour” will begin, in the United States, on May 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Sam Danshes at

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