9Tomorrow is definitely a product of its influences, and perhaps their roots are the appropriate starting point for identifying the characteristics that stack in to their signature sound.
Guitarist David Kellogg spent a portion of his live in the Caribbean, and is an internationally recognized songwriter and guitarist who has worked with Lenny Kravitz and Beres Hammond. Vocalist Dax Young cites influences in the likes of Jeff Buckley and Incubus that clearly influence his vocal style. Guitarist and vocalist Stephen Helvig grew up absorbing punk and alternative bands in the likes of Sublime. Bassist Jai Bowie is the son of famous banjoman Jim Bowie. These influences bubble to the top of 9Tomorrow’s collaboration to create a smooth groove that is sodden with reggae bop and is best described as soft-rock punk-infused reggae. Clearly, my musical taxonomy skills are at a loss.
The whole disc is soft, with minimal percussion, lots of warm piano beds and thick, spacious mixing; it strikes me as a great disc for relaxation. Lyrics are contemplative and sincere, and the theme of the whole disc is difficult to capture; touching on a broad range of emotions, not the least of which are contemplative, sensitive, daring, and exploratory.
The songs are very self-contained, with minimal bridging of themes or thoughts, but all are densely emotional. Each seems to conjure or trigger specific thoughts or memories in my own life. Notable tracks for me are Morning Light which is a dulcet lullaby of sex and passion, while Enough for Two is a mysterious story of desire and attraction.
What I like most about the disc is that 9Tomorrow is great at using standard rock instrumentation in innovative ways. The songs are all opposite of the rock/pop formula of predictable intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus innateness. Stanzas and phrasing occur in innovative manifestations of sweeping key changes, stitching and separation of instrumental components, all on top of absolutely beautiful and creative lyrics.
Not designed for the anthematic rock enthusiast, Gravity in Love is a album of reservations and prose; it is delicate, simple, and an absolutely ideal disc for introspection. Lyrics are poetry in motion but lack the specificity that prohibits the listeners from walking through their own life during the listening process. It is an independent treasure and presents the maturity of veteran artists.
The Good: Designed for thought, this disc is an active experience that transcends the typical mundane notions of the standard fare of indie rockers.
The Bad: Some songs like Karma Too are a little too electronic for my taste, but to each their own.
Verdict: Exceedingly creative without being prohibitively avant-garde, Gravity in Love is accessible and enjoyable for a large audience. It’s a wise purchase for when you ready to move on from indie rock banalities.