Sound — 7
Train formed way back in 1994 and since have steadily released albums of their own brand of folky pop rock which seems to always have been especially popular on easy listening rock stations and certain circles in college campuses. Their newest album, "California 37", sticks to their more or less established sound with possibly a slightly more country feel to some of the songs and others come across much more as pop than rock. There are eleven tracks on the album, which clocks in at approximately 40 minutes. The trio of Patrick Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood have perfected their unique brand of music which seems to be popular in the mainstream as well as have it's own unique cult following of very serious fans. If you are a fan of Train, then "California 37" will not disappoint. If you are a casual listener or just encountering Train for the first time, then "California 37" is as good an album to start with as any.
Train is one of those bands for me that I hear on the radio and leave it on the station and maybe tap my finger on the steering wheel to if I'm driving, but I didn't really give them much thought beyond that until about a year ago. That is when I realized that a lot of songs I assumed were one hit wonder type songs were all by the same band Train. After that I've followed them with something slightly more than casual interest. They are unique in that they are one of the few bands that seem they are producing hit music consistently without really selling out and being overly contrived. While I understand a lot of people, especially on UG, aren't necessarily going to like Train it isn't Metal or Hard Rock and there isn't a guitar virtuoso in the band, but their music is solid and very listen-able. The strong point of their music would absolutely be the arrangement of their songs while the songwriting isn't bad by any stretch, and their musicianship is up to par, it is their arrangement of their songs that really add the sparkle to their sound.
Lyrics — 7
Patrick Monahan has a voice that is easy to enjoy, with his vocals delivered in a very smooth almost crooning manner. The rest of the band provides backing vocals both sparingly and expertly. The lyrics tend to stay on the subjects of love and nostalgia. As an example of the lyrical content you can expect on "California 37", here are some lyrics from the single "Drive By": "On the other side of a street I knew/ Stood a girl that looked like you/ I guess that's dj vu/ I thought this can't be true/ 'Cause you moved to west LA/ Or New York or Santa Fe/ Or wherever to get away from me/ Oh but that one night/ Was more than just right/ I didn't leave you 'cause I was all through/ Oh I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell/ Because I really fell for you".
Patrick has an interesting voice with a decent range. His vocals absolutely fit in the context of Train's music, which is to say that his voice fits nicely anywhere from country music to rock music just short of hard rock. His voice doesn't sound generic, but has its own character to it, which puts him a few steps ahead of a lot of popular vocalists in my opinion. He manages a good country voice for "Bruises" and his voice also fits well in the almost mariachi context on the verses on "50 Ways To Say Goodbye".
Overall Impression — 6
Just right up front I want to say that I absolutely hate the title track to "California 37". I hate it and it doesn't even seem to fit with the rest of the album. It is horrible that is how strongly I feel about it. On the other hand, I really enjoy "Sing Together" with the ukulele, and I also enjoy "Feels Good At First" and "Drive By". I am not really fond of "You Can Finally Meet My Mom" and "We Were Made For This". I'm not sure if this is an album I would purchase, but there are definitely songs on it worth purchasing individually. I just have mixed feelings about the product as a whole. That is how I feel about every album Train has released. "Bruises" is the most country sounding song on the album, probably because of the guest vocalist joining Patrick Ashley Monroe. As to my final opinion of the album after several listens, the songs seem to be hit or miss, but a small majority are good. If you are a fan of Train, then the album is worth purchasing, but if you are a casual listener then you are going to want to give the songs a listen on YouTube and then just purchase the ones that stand out for you.