Apex Manor was conceived as Ross Flournoy's nom de plume, and eventually new band (with Adam Vine, Andy Creighton and former band mate Brian Whelan), following the dissolution of The Broken West in 2009. As the album title suggests, The Year of Magical Drinking loosely chronicles Flournoy's "lost year" spent drinking with neighbors in LA and wasting time before eventually summoning the energy and inspiration (through an NPR songwriting contest no less) to return to songwriting and, eventually, to touring. The subject matter and the title joke, in which a defunct band stands in for a deceased spouse as catalyst for existential crisis, suggest something pretty awesome is forthcoming: unfortunately, The Year of Magical Drinking rarely rises above solid. Its best tracks like opener "Southern Decline" and elegant single "I Know These Waters Well" are counterbalanced by some fairly lame debauched nonsense in "Teenage Blood" and false-note seduction tracks like "Burn Me Alive" and "Coming To", which Flournoy frankly sounds too old for. Surprisingly, it's the ballads "Holy Roller" and bonus track "Secret Language"---surprising because ballads were not really a Broken West speciality---that are among the most memorable things on the record. Listening to it, I never totally forget that I'm in the presence of the power pop genius that gave us Now or Heaven; but it's a genius that hasn't quite recovered from its gap year. Hopefully his new bandmates will provide Flournoy with a better muse than his back deck and a mason jar.