I do not think that I would ever expect salvation of any kind from San Francisco (perhaps I am a bit biased), but this album did provide a salvation of sorts for the career of Train , after the disappointing sales of “For Me, It’s You,” and the solo album of Pat Monahan “Last Of Seven,” and a lengthy hiatus that was a near break-up. The massive success of the band’s first single “Hey, Soul Sister” and later singles propelled the album to hit status and allowed the band a second lease on life, which is rare in the world of music. So, in a roundabout way, this album, as a dual-layered cycle of love songs both to a person as well as to the San Francisco Bay area, did serve as a salvation of sorts to Train, in providing them with a rich and layered context for their music, as well as the opportunity for a continued period of professional success and the start of a second act of a worthy career. Now, for the song-by-song analysis:
Save Me, San Francisco: This song is a mid-tempo rock track that is an obvious ode to San Francisco, with witty lyrics and a compressed sort of power-pop sound. There are some elegant piano elements, along with some touches of a nice falsetto, something I appreciate when I listen to songs. It is little wonder that even on an album with quite a few hits that this heartfelt ode became a minor hit itself.
Hey, Soul Sister: One of the biggest hits of Train’s career (to-date), this simple and quirky song, with minimal instrumentation (ukelele and drums, for the most part) and passionate lyrics, point to the second layer of meaning on the album, a straightforward message of love. Listening to this lovely song fills me with a mixture of longing and sadness, in that I have not found my own soul sister to fulfill the promise of these lyrics, which I suppose is a fault that can always be rectified with the right person at the right time.
I Got You: Beginning and continuing into its bridge with a sample of the Doobie Brother’s “Black Water,” this white-boy soul song is singing about a man who is glad not to be singing a song about a girl that got away. It is upbeat and happy, exactly as one would expect, with spoken-word lyrics that at least hint at rap of a pleasant and mild kind.
Parachute: This song is a passionate sort of song about the difficulties of regular life in a relationship that sounds like something Daughtry would sing (and I mean that in a good way). With its plaintive lyrics over a driving guitar rock sound it sounds like a song that could have very easily been a hit, not this album needed any more (it had at least five hits, after all) to make its point. It is a song that any woman would be happy to have written about them, I would think, despite its tone of anxiety.
This Ain’t Goodbye: This gentle song is a bittersweet love ballad about the hope for a relationship to continue in some fashion even if it will not go the way that the singer wants. With its passionate singing and piano playing and backing strings, this is the sort of song I imagine playing over and over again, given its clear echoes of my own personal life.
If It’s Love: Continuing the general anxieties about love from the previous song, this song is more hopeful, filled with witty spoken-word lyrics that openly confesses a mutual love. Ironically enough, the video of the song pointed to the band members’ love for each other that allowed them to reunite. Besides that layer, this song is a much more upbeat one than the one that came before. Unsurprisingly, the song was a hit.
You Already Know: A song that builds up with a long slow and beautiful intro, it becomes a mid-tempo song with fuzzy guitars about someone who is not being particular honest. The song is apparently about letting someone go but not being willing to tell them why, feeling a bit used and taken advantage of and unwilling to explain what someone should already know.
Words: Continuing the somewhat drastic mood shifts on this album, this song is about a refusal to give up on a partner. It has strings, a soaring and soulful music and lyrics. Ideally, if someone could be comforted by words, this song expresses the desire to speak words of kindness and forgiveness. It also expresses a desire for avoiding words that cut and hurt. This song is a standout track on an excellent album.
Brick By Brick: This song is passionate in its desire to build a strong relationship brick by brick, starting from the bottom, focused on the long-term with a focus on love and loyalty. It is an optimistic song about trying to rebuild intimacy after difficult times, and it’s a song that many people can certainly empathize with in its realism and passion.
Breakfast In Bed: Continuing the mood of the past few songs, this is a long looking forward to something I have yet to experience, breakfast in bed with a loving partner. The song has soft lyrics and a strong percussive feel that sounds quite a bit sultry and romantic, as it should. I cannot imagine many people who care for someone that would not like to be compared with being breakfast in bed, loving and pleasing.
Marry Me: This song is a slow acoustic ballad that seeks to serve as a marriage proposal between the two lovers in this album. It expresses the sentiments of the singer (who did marry a woman at this time) but it is a song that, for fairly obvious reasons tends to make me feel a bit gloomy and lonesome given that not only have I never married but I have never been even particularly close to marriage, at least not yet. Again, this is a song that combines longing and sadness. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit single.
Shake Up Christmas: I am not a fan of Christmas songs, seeing as I do not celebrate Christmas, but the song itself is an original song and it happened to be a hit single when it was released (rather intelligently, I might add) as a seasonable single. It’s a fairly slight song, upbeat and somewhat superficial and a bit repetitive, but it ought to please those who like that sort of thing.
Half Moon Bay: This song continues a message of love, although the song appears to relate not only to romantic love, but it also relates to the singer’s love for San Francisco, reflecting on the joys of home life, the appreciation of the cuddling that happens on a rainy day, and other pleasures of domestic life that give some of the reasons why the album itself thinks so highly of San Francisco given its associations.
The Finish Line: This song, like “Marry Me” is a slow romantic ballad, a bit bittersweet but still focused on the destination of love, and the difficulties of dealing with mundane life with someone when someone has moments of soaring bliss. The song is realistic and sweet, but more than a little bit valedictory, which is a bit bittersweet given that the only finish line of love ought to be death, and even that is but a temporary end to the eternal appreciation of someone as a brother or sister in Christ for all time.
Umbrella: This song is a beautiful cover of Rihanna’s hit single “Umbrella.” It is upbeat and manages to reflect the song’s concern with the rainy weather of San Fran while also expressing a desire for love and intimacy. Well done.
Parachute (Alternative Version): This version of Parachute sounds like a good radio mix of the original song, but is not dramatically different from the original, just a pleasant remix.
Marry Me (First Dance Mix): This song is a less acoustic remix of the song, which makes it suitable for the radio and school dances everywhere. It is a pleasant mix, though, no matter how bittersweet the song material.
Like most of Train’s albums, this one has marked mood shifts at times from one song to the next, going from frustration and longing to hopeful expectation of a future love. The song contains deeper meanings about a sense of place relating to love and happiness, and if this album is a bittersweet one because it shows an appreciation of much that I long for–a settled place and a settled love life among them–it is a lovely album and certainly one that deservedly restored Train to popularity with the general public. Overall, the album is a well-deserved hit.
 See, for example: