Mix a little Replacements, some Lou Reed and some Travelling Wilbury’s (that’s a complement) up in a blender, hold down the “chop” button for a few minutes, and what you’re most likely to come up with is the band Apex Manor.
“The Year of Magical Drinking”* is the first effort from this band that began when Rob Flournoy, ex The Broken West leader, entered a songwriting contest ran by NPR where participants were required to write and record a song in a week. Flournoy succeeded and apparently just kept on writing and now here we are talking about his efforts. So how did he do?
Pretty well if you ask me. Flournoy’s songs, at least for this album, do not shy away from putting their influences on display, front and center and on BOTH sleeves. But instead of coming off as cliché or boring the songs in this set manage to take on a life of their own. In a deft act of balancing they look forward for their inspiration as much as they look backwards for their foundation and it makes all the difference. The track “I Know These Waters Well” could have just dove right into a full on cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love”. Instead once the vocals kick in it veers off into a Cure via Lou Reed via Tom Petty rocker. It certainly makes for an unexpected combination of styles but it works. And it works mostly because of the pop element. I know that everyone is becoming all about pop as of late, but not everyone is good at it. Flournoy’s songs, while not truly memorable (so far…I have a feeling the album is a grower) in any shape or fashion ARE perfectly entertaining. That is to say, these are some really good songs. REALLY good….but they might be too much fun to have any long lasting impact given the rate at which we consume music these days.
If anything I’d say this set hints a potentially great band that is just getting their wits about them and that their next release may be something truly special. For now though the only thing we have is “Drinking”, and while the album as a whole doesn’t quite live up to the potential that some of its parts suggest, it’s pretty clear that Apex Manor is going to get there eventually, it’s just a question of when. In the meantime there are quite a few gems here…more than enough to hold us over till the next time.
Standout Tracks: “I Know These Waters Well”, “Holy Roller”, “Coming To”
*A play on Joan Didion book “The Year Of Magical Thinking”. Verdict is still out as to whether that play actually works.