Album review: "The Year of Magical Drinking"
After the 2009 dissolution of his band, the Broken West, Ross Flournoy spent the better part of a year at war with a songwriter's most common foe: writer's block. By the sound of it, a good deal of that time, which resulted in the album "The Year of Magical Drinking," was spent imbibing.
"There's nothing like forgetting who you really are / When you're four fingers deep in a mason jar," Flournoy offers atop the lively pop-rock of "Southern Decline," the debut album-opening track from his new band, Apex Manor. "Only then / Only then do I feel at home."
That "The Year of Magical Drinking" exists is proof that Flournoy conquered his writing troubles, but the degree to which he succeeded isn't as clear: Most of the album's 10 songs are straightforward takes on fuzzy pop, with Flournoy addressing the many complexities of his relationships (and ruts) with women, creativity and alcohol.
But the quartet's music doesn't deviate far enough from the same clean formula to really resonate; as a result, there are few moments of real inspiration to grab the listener, no matter how relatable some of Flournoy’s viewpoints may be.
Still, on the few moments when Apex Manor properly gets things in sync — the guitar-driven tale of youthful invigoration on "Teenage Blood"; the heartbreakingly subdued keys on "My My Mind" — it's like the fog lifting from the worst of hangovers.
— Brandon Weigel, March 2011