The Song Reader is a beautiful nostalgic throwback. When I heard that Beck was going to be releasing his new “album” only as sheet music, I thought it was an interesting project, and in retrospect, not terribly surprising for such a quirky artist. But the finished product is just too cool. Again, in retrospect, not terribly surprising, given that it’s by McSweeney’s. Compiled in a beautiful hardcover folder, each piece is printed as individual sheet music on quality paper, illustrated by a different artist, complete with advertising parodies, and clever song teasers, all reminiscent of the bygone era when sheet music was wildly popular and often featured frame-able art. I went on a show-and-tell campaign when it arrived in the office. Just like the packaging, the music itself is tongue-in-cheek and yet sincere at the same time. It stays true to form for that era with arrangements that are substantial enough, but relatively simple to play, so that a wide audience can enjoy them. A smaller audience could improvise and expand upon the sketches to create more sophisticated orchestrations. It’s a fun, organic, musical conversation.— Sara, Atlanta
In the wake of Modern Guilt and The Information, Beck’s latest project comes in an almost-forgotten formtwenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. Complete with full-color, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case, Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together. The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear Do We? We Do,” or Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.
Featuring original art from Marcel Dzama (who created the imagery for Beck’s acclaimed Guero), Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische, and many more.
Including an introduction by Jody Rosen (Slate, the New York Times) and a preface by Beck.
Readers’ (and select musicians’) renditions of the songs will be featured on the McSweeney’s website.