It’s been eight long years since we last heard from Los Angeles band Apex Manor, and if one were to ask frontman Ross Flournoy what’s happened to him since then, their latest album Heartbreak City would be a clear answer. His latest collection is packed full of fuzzed-out rockers streaked with workingman’s melancholy, as well as some more delicate tracks for a somber golden hour.
The album takes off right away with the one-two punch of “Asked & Answered” and “Where My Mind Goes”. The former is a chugging rocker infused with an airy, romantic yearning, while the latter’s vocal melody twists and swerves around the thundering drums, before coming to the double-edged chorus, where Flournoy sings “It’s where my mind goes, girl let’s keep in touch”, trying to sound aloof and unmoved while it’s clear he’s not ready to let go.
The tracks here are dripping with longing and wistfulness. The pain of watching a relationship end is brought to life movingly on “The Long Goodbye” (“I got lost in the dark, I was waiting for you to break the news”), whose harmonious chorus is a subtle heartbreaker. Then on “Sara Now”, Flournoy narrates the harsh realities of the aftermath, trying to move on (“I was living fast, I was living free, living just for me”) yet failing miserably (“Ever since I woke up I wanted to call you all over town”).
Musically, the album relies on a handful of driving rockers featuring Flournoy’s lo-fi, melodic vocals over crackling guitars (think Dinosaur Jr. meets My Bloody Valentine, with a smidge of Replacements thrown in for the big hooks), but occasionally Apex Manor goes out on a limb, like on the delicate “Diamond in the Dark”. Bringing backing female vocals, the track is softer and more elegant than anything else here, using brighter tones that bring to mind the music of 70’s Laurel Canyon more than modern Silverlake. There’s also “Actual Size”, which rides a repetitive, EMD-like beat and let’s the distortion build as the vocals hauntingly linger.
While the album’s momentum fizzle towards the end on the hazier “Morning Light” and thoughtful but slow “Sanctuary”, overall Heartbreak City is a fantastic comeback for the group, touching on universal aches and sadness while keeping the music propulsive and memorable. For anyone traveling through their own heartbreak city, this will be the perfect soundtrack for that ride.