We Live in Rented Rooms is the seventh release and the first release in five years from Fred Cornog’s solo outfit, East River Pipe. Residing in New Jersey, Cornog finds time to write, produce, and record his albums himself at home and all while still holding a daytime job. Signed to Merge Records with such labelmates as Arcade Fire and Superchunk, East River Pipe barely tours. He chooses to live in New Jersey, support his family with a nine-to-five job, and keep his love for composing more of a hobby. This becomes even more evident when listening to We Live in Rented Rooms. One can only get the feeling Cornog’s only care is writing and releasing good songs. Perhaps Cornog has the secret in never becoming a full time musician?
The album is a feature complete with a full list of mellow yet gloomy songs depicting life as Cornog is the witness. His ability to empathize with the darker elements of life allows him to convincingly deliver a mood that drags and tugs and pulls the listener under a spell. The album’s opener “Backroom Deals” is a highlight; it leads the record off with dreamy quality. The keyboards are the driving force and Cornog’s wet vocals and distorted guitars ring out over the song’s best moments. On the opposite side of the album’s spectrum, “Conman” is weary song that features Cornog alone with a guitar and keyboard. It may be the best example of Cornog’s ability to deliver his song’s message through performance. His voice trembles dynamically in and out and with a reverb affect that carries his tone even further.
After putting aside East River Pipe’s murky and desperate lyrics, I was surprised by Cornog’s ability to compose and produce. The presence of percussion is minimal in almost every song, this delay really allows for each song to journey from beginning to end. Adding to it, We live in Rented Rooms plays well chronologically as though there is a purpose in the order songs are placed on the record. It is evident there was care and purpose behind each attribute of this release.
Each song on We Live in Rented Rooms is notable for they all have their individual mark. Though the album is mostly gloomy and depressing it is never pretentious. The biggest standouts on the album must be “Cold Ground,” “Summer Boy,” “Conman,” “The Flames Are Coming Back,” and the album closer “Three Ships.”