Wednesday, February 2, 2011

REVIEW: Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking

I’m not inclined to doubt the sentiment expressed by the album title, given that one song mentions being “four fingers deep in the mason jar”, which covers the drinking part. As for the magical part, this record works great as a whole when you have time to listen all the way through, and as a collection of terrific individual power-pop songs, when maybe you don’t. That’s a deadly combination, and it may be the result of magical drinking, who am I to say?

Apex Manor is a guy named Ross Flournoy, and this album is his follow-up to the two albums he did with his previous band The Broken West. As big a fan as I was of The Broken West, this album is actually better than either of those records. I suppose it’s more “mature”, with a bit more variety in song structure… but my favorite songs are still the ones like “Teenage Blood”, which starts out with a whopping drumbeat and throws in a ripping guitar solo, “Party Line” with wonderful jangling guitars, and “Southern Decline”, with more propulsive drumming and a great guitar lead.

I think it’s valid to compare this Apex Manor record to Wilco discs like Summerteeth, and even Being There… several of the uptempo songs really remind me of “I Got You (at the End of the Century)” and “Outtasite”, where the more contemplative songs with relationship-inspired lyrics really are reminiscent of Summerteeth. Think I’m imagining it? There’s a song in which Flournoy says: “I’m not an easy jar to open”! I’m also reminded of Lloyd Cole’s work on albums like Rattlesnakes, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Throughout, it builds toward the last track, "Coming To", the title of which may represent a bit of self-revelation. Apparently the year post-band-breakup was a tough one for Flournoy. But by the time we get to "Coming To", it's rolling along with great guitars, some "inside joke" lyrics, and even cowbell! At 35 minutes, with plenty of hooks, Flournoy has made a real good record, a great start to 2011.

Here's the video for "My My Mind":

Apex Manor - My My Mind from Merge Records on Vimeo.

For a limited time, you can stream the whole album here.

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