If Train’s previous album Save Me San Francisco was autumn, California 37 is without a doubt summer. It’s a sun-soaked Californian day, squeezed into a slim-line record – the type of music that should be the soundtrack to a fun-filled American road-trip.
The sixth studio album by Cali-born Train is a chipper, pop-rock album with catchy rhymes and a colourful arrangement of songs, most of which vie for the title of my ‘summer anthem’. It’s a mix of the distinctive light-hearted rock, soppy sentimentality and beachside acoustic sounds one has come to love and expect from the band.
On first listening you might be fooled into thinking it’s merely more of the same. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, a band should always give a little more with each album they release. Upon a second listen you start to hear the subtle differences, with songs that start to take on a more original sound. The third and fourth listen is where you really start to appreciate the lighter, freer sound this album offers.
There are plenty of noteworthy songs to be heard. The single Drive By is a bouncy, energetic number, that is just about as catchy as you can get before a song goes overboard and sends the listener into a crazed frenzy. 50 Ways to Say Goodbye is an obvious favourite for me, with a bizarre Spanish pop feel that makes me want to don a sombrero and whip out my maracas (no, that isn’t a metaphor). Naturally there have been many who claim this song is a rip-off of numerous other famous songs, notably the melody of Phantom of the Opera. I have no qualms; it only makes me like the song more.
The faster songs are contrasted beautifully by more relaxing ones such as Feels Good at First, which is a welcome breath of fresh air. The slower, more sentimental songs are where Train excel. I’m surprised more fans don’t rave about the country-influenced duet Bruises, featuring the truly gifted Ashley Monroe (Pistol Annies). With it’s near perfect harmonies and the pure country twang of Monroe’s voice, it deserves more recognition than it’s received thus far.
There are a couple of songs on the album that are particularly reminiscent of Save Me San Francisco, one of them being Sing Together. It has the trademark ukulele sound that was so popular with Hey Soul Sister and is a sunny song you’d imagine sung by a camp fire, whilst people sit snuggled under blankets, toasting marshmallows and indeed, singing together. However, it falls short of the charm that Soul Sister exuded.
With plenty of pop-culture references, some poignant lyrics, and some downright ridiculous ones, it could never be said that Train’s music is dull. The only criticism I have is that the opening track on the album should not have been This’ll Be My Year. In fact, being perhaps the weakest song put forward, it should have been disqualified from the album altogether.
California 37 is a superb follow up to Save Me San Francisco, and whilst none of the songs are quite as perfect as Marry Me or the original wonder Drops of Jupiter, the album does offer up a better range of songs than previous ones.
There’s a sincere effortlessness to Train’s music and listening to California 37 puts a smile on my face. What more could you ask for?