The 13 simple, short songs on the sixth East River Pipe album are rife with the kinds of characters Steely Dan used to chronicle, druggies and phonies wandering the vast and vapid American wasteland.

Once upon a time, lo-fi recording was a necessity for anyone on a budget. Later lo-fi became an aesthetic choice, or a way to hide behind the limitations of technology. For F.M. Cornog, aka East River Pipe, lo-fi has always been a way to capture the intimate immediacy of his particular brand of confessionals, songs of losers and loss tempered by only a taste of wry humor.

The 13 simple, short songs on the sixth East River Pipe album are rife with the kinds of characters Steely Dan used to chronicle, druggies and phonies wandering the vast and vapid American wasteland, but Cornog's vision couldn't be any more different than Fagen and Becker's. Sure, "Druglife," "Dirty Carnival" and the title track are cynical, but Cornog never sounds like he's condescending.

Instead, he details the sad, empty lives of dead-enders, those left behind or living in the margins of society. "Some dreams will kill you," Cornog sings on the album's final track, and to that end his songs offer a couple of different options: you should escape when you can, he seems to be suggesting to his protagonist in "You Got Played, Little Girl." Or, as his sings on "Crystal Queen," you can kill the dream before it kills you. Either way, don't expect a happy ending. -- Joshua Klein

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