East River Pipe

Mel

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AllMusic Review by

One-man orchestras are needed? Then one shall be found, and here it is. Strictly speaking, Mel continues Cornog's winning streak rather than being stunning in and of itself, but given that his work glows with gentle, passionate invention, that's a miniscule complaint. Merge labelmates the Magnetic Fields ended up gathering all the stripped-down emotional synth-indie attention, though on Mel Cornog frankly shows as much talent and, subtly, more variety. The basic elements of each songs remain constant: two overdubbed guitar lines, his winsome but not sugary sweet singing, does-the-job drum machine and bass, and just enough synth orchestration here and there to fill out the arrangements (the effect of this on "We're Going to Nowhere" is downright heartbreaking). Cornog touches on a smart range of feelings and subject matter in his lyrics -- while the music is fine enough to stand on its own, he makes an effort with what he writes, and it shows. There's no forced depth, just witty and wise reflections for liquor to "Kill the Action" and, in "Take Back the Days," the suddenly cutting "I think it's clear/That we know nothing/Faked you for a time." For feeling exactly like what it is -- something recorded at home like a private project -- Mel sounds as big as all outdoors, a full-band level delivery at all steps. The gentler numbers make for the perfect contrast as a result -- the instrumental "New York Crown" starts like an early-'80s dramatic soundtrack that doesn't stink, reflective without being gloopy, before guitars come in to take it higher. Another smart point of Cornog's work is that he doesn't wear out his welcome. Most of the songs barely break two minutes and 30 seconds, and rather than feel like fragments come across as full pieces with all the right touches, such as the wordless backing vocals on "Beautiful Worn-Out Love."

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