by Matthew Sigur (@matthewsigur)
Formerly a member of a power-pop band, Los Angeles musician Ross Flournoy sounds like he’s traded bubblegum for cigarettes. A decade removed from writing bouncy jingles with The Broken West, Flournoy and his friends have released a second album, Heartbreak City, under the band name Apex Manor. Unlike the shiny pop-rock of his former band, Heartbreak City is a shoegaze-y, stadium-sized, sensitive rock record. This is an album full of dinosaur-sized guitars and smoky, reverb-filled ballads.
Similar-sounding, almost-goth rock bands usually come loaded with pretension. Thankfully, Flournoy and Apex Manor aren’t concerned with all the frills and fuss. With a one-two-three combo of “Asked & Answered,” “Where My Mind Goes,” and “The Long Goodbye,” Apex Manor sounds like a band that brings walls of amps to live stages. Guitar geeks will foam at the mouth at the fuzz in songs like “The Long Goodbye” and the title track. In the midst of the distortion, Flournoy carves space for sentiment. “That’s where my mind goes, you know I like it rough,” he sighs on “Where My Mind Goes,” against a snarling bass. In softer moments like “Diamond in the Dank,” “Sara Now,” and “Morning Light,” Flournoy’s pop sensibility shines brighter. The music is moodier, but Flournoy’s melodies are still infectious.
The expectation with this silhouette-styled rock is that the band will go over the top. Maybe the singer sings just like Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Maybe the guitars have so much treble that it physically hurts to listen to more than a few songs. Maybe the band just says “fuck it,” and writes a song about someone’s sex being on fire. After awhile, those acts sound disingenuous. Heartbreak City isn’t preoccupied being different for different’s sake. This is a reliably catchy, L.A. rock record. These days, that lack of nonsense is a welcome surprise.