Casually but with a little bit of springiness that simmers before disappearing altogether, “December at the P.O.” charms us with its simple harmonies and toned-down tempo, but following the eleven songs it’s preceded by in Paul Mark & the Van Dorens’ Gravity, it feels more retrospective than it does on its own. “Waiting Round for You” is similarly interpretive depending on the order in which it’s consumed next to the other songs in its parent album’s tracklist, but all in all, there isn’t a stitch of audio here that doesn’t resonate with some part of the listener - regardless of circumstance.
“Heart Full of Soul” has been widely covered by a number of artists in different genres, but Paul Mark doesn’t get too crazy with his rendition of the song in Gravity. A straightforward, post-country slab of Americana, this tune, the balladic “O T B” and “You Can Take It with You” account for eight and a half of the best minutes this LP has to offer - mostly because of how unguarded each of these songs feels. Mark is brutally honest with us, whether it serves the compositional structure or not, and his rebellious attitude towards the black and white framework of contemporary pop/rock is inspiring to say the least.
I originally thought “Con Man VIP” belonged as a B-side to one of the singles here more than it did a main tracklist draw, but after a little more time to think about it, this song is a fiery linchpin of Gravity’s midsection. It’s not the Mark Lanegan-style exotic “Friend Gone Astray” is, but it doesn’t need to be in order to make an impression with us - its frills are purely vocal-centric. I knew Paul Mark was a good singer before this LP, but his work here is some of his strongest with the mic that I’ve had the chance to review.
Even an instrumental segue like “Coronation” doesn’t feel like filler when it’s situated with other songs like “I Spin When You Grin,” “The Next Fight” and “Con Man VIP” in the near vicinity. The first act in Gravity stretches our main man’s legs as an instrumentalist more than anything in the second does, but whether he’s putting his heart on the top of the piano or lobbing it to us wrapped up in poetry that resembles tissue paper from afar, he’s always being real with us in some artistic capacity.
Gravity’s opening pair - “Gravity is Failing” and “Forever,” are every bit the yin and yang that listeners should count on when determining how much this album will appeal to their sensibilities, and when I first heard them, I immediately knew I was sitting on a profound offering from Paul Mark & the Van Dorens. Five years after Stowaways, Mark still has a lot that he needs to get off of his chest, and in this record’s twelve tantalizing songs, we’re given no choice but to absorb his emotions as they rise to the surface. It’s both a burden and a bastion of catharsis depending on how you look at it, and for me, it’s one of the best indie LPs I’ve heard this summer.