The Broken West broke up in 2009, the five members quietly going their separate ways without even bothering to update the band’s MySpace page. Compared to Oasis’ own split, which became headline news that summer, the Broken West’s collapse was a quiet affair, with many fans not even realizing the band had disintegrated. The Year of Magical Drinking may be the final nail in the Broken West’s coffin -- a sign that frontman Ross Flournoy and multi-instrumentalist Brian Whelan have officially moved on -- but it also celebrates the same mix of power pop and untidy rock & roll, which makes Apex Manor sound like a slightly older, slightly messier, but altogether similar incarnation of the band that spawned them. All similarities aside, The Year of Magical Drinking is a solid pop album in its own right, with all the economic hooks of a Fountains of Wayne record but none of that band’s antiseptic production. Rounded out by a handful of guest musicians -- including Andy Creighton, Adam Vine, and Derek Brown -- Flournoy and Whelan pack ten songs into a quick 35 minutes, focusing on fuzzy guitar-driven nuggets like “Teenage Blood” while still making room for the occasional bedroom ballad (“My My Mind”) or woozy folk song (“Holy Roller”). The slower numbers suit Flournoy’s voice well, pulling out the huskiness in his baritone, and he performs the upbeat tracks with the tangible relief of someone who, despite the dissolution of his previous group, has found a way to keep the momentum going.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey