A year ago, would you have thought that the biggest selling single of 2010 would have come from Train? TRAIN? “Meet Virginia”/”Drops of Jupiter” TRAIN?? Yeah, me neither. The San Francisco-based band hadn’t scored anything resembling a hit in half a decade. Actually, I’d been wondering if the band even existed at all, or whether lead singer Pat Monahan was actually the only member utlizing the name “Train” after his (not bad) solo debut “Last of Seven” fell on deaf ears.

Well, the band does still exist. Although several members have abandoned ship over the years, guitarist Jimmy Stafford and drummer Scott Underwood remain in the fold along with Monahan. And whether you’re fond of “Hey, Soul Sister”‘s jangly sound and free-associative lyrics or appreciate the band’s more contemplative sound, you’ll definitely find something to enjoy on “Save Me, San Francisco”.

Train’s main draw has always been Pat Monahan. His high-pitched soulful yowl is capable of making even the most inane lyrics go over well. Despite the silly (but ear-catching) pop-culture references (like the ones to Mr. Mister and Madonna on “Hey, Soul Sister”), the band’s best work comes when they dial down the goofiness and just make great songs. The title track is a good-natured ode to their hometown (as one would infer from the title), while “I Got You” utilizes a quote from fellow California band The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water” to create a pleasing singalong jam.

Musically, Train is as capable of doing the big, dramatic thing quite well. The dizzying, shotgun-like percussion of “Parachute” has something of a U2 vibe, while the beautiful ballad “This Ain’t Goodbye” deserves to be at the end of a rom-com montage, and I say that in the least cynical way possible. It’s truly a beautiful song. Towards the end of the album, there are a few less dramatic treats, such as the low-key “Breakfast in Bed” and the sweetly simple album closer “Marry Me”.

If you’d written Train off after their non-starter album “For Me, It’s You” (an album that caused me to jump off the…uh, Train…), you’d be wrong. Five albums deep, the band has recorded one of their best albums yet. Even if “Hey, Soul Sister” (and it’s equally goofy follow up, “If It’s Love”) rubs you the wrong way (and it’s ubiquity has made it a bit annoying), there are gems on “Save Me, San Francisco” that prove the album’s much deeper than it’s big hit single.

Grade: B

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