While the rest of the recording industry falls all over itself to find new, cutting-edge ways to release music, Beck is turning the clock back about 100 years with his new album, due out this December. Song Reader isn’t really an album, per se, so much as a collection of 20 different songs that exist only as individual pieces of sheet music. The whole thing comes packaged together with full-color “heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song” in a hardcover carrying case. The idea is to get each purchaser—those that read sheet music, at least—to put their own personal spin on each track, so each listener can become Beck, sort of.
McSweeney’s is releasing the “record," promising that the accompanying drawings by Marcel Dzama, Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische, and more will be “as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together,” as well as that the songs are as “unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author.” But that doesn’t mean that anyone will ever get to hear Beck actually play a lick of them: According to the press release, “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.”
Renditions of the songs from readers and select musicians will be featured on the McSweeney’s website after the release, so now would be a great time to work out a sweet theramin/trombone duet. And maybe if enough people record absolutely abysmal versions, Beck will feel so terrible he’ll come out of whatever hole he’s hiding in to do it himself.