In the pop music idiom, few artists actually reach the pinnacle of mass popularity. Most flounder in obscurity, their music largely unnoticed or under-appreciated. Others flourish in the underground, embraced by music’s various subcultures. Ross Flournoy’s musical output falls into both categories. His former band, The Broken West, despite being signed to indie powerhouse, Merge Records, failed to endear themselves to the indie underground, but succeeded in establishing themselves as a solid power pop band. In the wake of The Broken West’s split and a bout of writer’s block, Flournoy has reemerged with a new band, Apex Manor, and their aurally pleasing debut album, The Year Of Magical Drinking.
A mix of fuzz-heavy power pop and acoustic laments, the songs on Drinking bring to mind the youthful abandon of The Replacements and the adult-friendly folk rock of Wilco. On the track “My My Mind,” the purr of a Wurlitzer and mellow timbre of Flouroy’s vocals bring to mind Jeff Tweedy’s distinct style. On the contrary, “Teenage Blood” is a thunder-punch of rock that would fit perfectly on Let It Be or Tim. Flouroy’s ability to craft an infectious hook, a pop music prerequisite, is undeniable. He succeeds in sinking his melodious refrains deep into your cerebral cortex. Lodging them there. Demanding repeat listens.
Like all good pop music, the “hits” on The Year Of Magical Drinking are strong enough to stand on their own. But, in it’s entirety, the album fails to live up to the promise of it’s stand out tracks. The album fizzles out with two tracks that seem like afterthoughts. “Burn Me Alive” is a Radioheadish nod to sexual encounters, replete with a strained falsetto vocal delivery. “Coming To” is a mid-temp rocker that ends the album with a thud as Flouroy utters the mundane line, “Don’t sweat my pet/kittens die/all the time.”
Will Apex Manor reach the pinnacle of pop stardom? Probably not, but I don’t think that’s Flouroy’s intent. The Year Of Magical Drinking is the cathartic tale of one man’s life over the course of a turbulent year. Consumed in small quantities, Apex Manor’s music is solid blast of raucous pop. As a whole, their debut album lacks a cohesive element to meld the separate tracks into a consistent and convincing narrative.