Release Date: Feb 15, 2011
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Fred Cornog's seventh album of slow, sad home-recorded pop songs does not, when you get down to it, sound all that different from the first six. There are subtle changes: whether because of upgrades to his home studio gear over the years -- he recently traded in his trusty old Tascam 388 for a Korg D1600 mini-studio -- or his increased mastery of it, his music has evolved to the point that it can hardly be described as lo-fi any longer. We Live in Rented Rooms feels positively lush; despite the familiar, humble drum machines and no-frills strumming, it's brimming with warm, comforting keyboards and quietly meticulous arrangements, projecting a calm, unassuming stateliness.
F.M. Cornog has it pretty good. He's got a good 9-to-5 in a recession economy, working the tiling department at a Home Depot somewhere in New Jersey, and he comes home to his wife and an eight-year-old daughter. When he gets the itch, he writes and records in his simple home studio. When he wants ….
The limping campfire banjo that heralds the return of East River Pipe could have come from a record made 80 years ago. It’s a reminder that the most recent Great Depression might have begun as a financial crisis but has taken on a more literal meaning among those far enough down the social-economic ladder to feel the full effects. These fly-paper narratives of people trapped by circumstances beyond their control or, in the case of Tommy Made A Movie, terminally weighted-down by their own inertia, have long been the preferred focus of lyricist Fred Cornog: Backroom Deals finds him trying and failing to come to terms with his role as a small cog in a machine that tips the scales away from him.
In the world of pop music, where so much moves so quickly, and fluctuation and hybridization are considered winning traits, there’s something to be said for solidity and insularity. Willfully doing your own thing away from spotlights, trends, and outside influences can lead to a relatively static sound. Yet that also means that in your body of work, you can probe into the edges and corners of that one sound more completely and thoroughly—thoughtfully, even—than if you were always looking ahead for the next thing.
F.M. Cornog, the guy behind East River Pipe, is a home-recording O.G. He spent the early-'90s releasing singles and cassettes through Ajax Records, and albums with U.K. label Sarah Records, before finding a long-term home with Merge in 1995. Never one for self-promotion or much touring, Cornog is a ….