Your New Favorite CD: Apex Manor- The Year of Magical Drinking

For People Who Like: Pete Yorn, some REM chords, The Broken West, people who’ve read 1/3 of Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking and forgot that it was about death, lovers of the Van Morrison Astral Weeks art work, a slick band working together in tight rhythms. Those who like to solipsize power pop style.

Key Tracks: Under the Gun, Coming To

Meeting Apex Manor was one of the more superficial encounters I’ve had lately. A trusted and always at-work music/book blog Largehearted Boy was plugging his record. Then when I saw it at slot 8 of a record store that may or may not advertise here, I realized that this Apex guy was more subtle and intriguing than the big room techno I associate with APHEX (Twin). He blends into a photo of flowers. Someone like that must have much to drop with each petal.

Second, the record came from Merge, which produces quality, usually (Spoon, Arcade Fire), and has a home in North Carolina, surely the sort of touched idyll of our still young country.

And yeah, however old lead singer/songwriter Ross Flournoy is, his brisk record always has the urgency of a moment. The centerpiece track is all about getting it out, now. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney is thanked in the liners for that song, “Under the Gun.” The song shot out when she hosted a contest on NPR challenging artists to write a song in a single weekend. I have a feeling Flournoy could’ve written this whole thing in weekend, it has that ease to it.

I tend to respond to it more musically than lyrically. The flurries of rock and keyboard wash that close the album (Coming To) send me to five different places at once. Then there are some throwaways. Burn Me Alive can’t commit to a groove. Some of his thoughts seem to have been looking for a voice. “I Know These Waters Well” has sentiments as old as scratched Summer Teeth (“I’m not an easy jar to open…”). But for every one of those there’s an energy which escapes for a randy piece of letting go: “Remember how it used to be? When we lived like daughters? Remember how your envy casts a spell?” He could have a certain narrator in mind, but the thought that he has a quality of excitement only found in, not girls but, daughters, that’s an excited rock and roll sentence.

Flourney formerly headed the band Broken West, another band very heavy on the hooks and optimistic guitar thursts. People were sorry to see them go, one of them local filmmaker now in Chicago Mark Potts who put the Broken West song On The Bubble in the Stanton Family Grave Robbery. So, in my mind the sights of Enid and motels south of Norman fly by even with this new band’s chord sprinting. This one should satisfy those who caught the Broken West during their quick caravan.

Ultimately, you’re having a conversation with the guitars and all the tension they have to make. A nearly rude crunch offsets the ethereal Eno dreams of Elemental Ways of Speaking, conjuring some needed and vital conflict. Flournoy, of couse, is” feeling like an island” yet desiring everything with unpredictable blood. More conflict. At its best, this summons the paradox of 20-something living that this songwriter and his mates clearly know well, hopping from band to band, at a time when it‘s hard to live on rocking and running on charity and road fumes. It’s the thing we jump into a car to when we are unsure where we going but can feel it pulsing at the finish line. There’s not much time to get there.

I’ll leave with a friendly juxtaposition of influences. The challengers scream for one more hour, and the contenders are under the gun.

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