Back in 2012, Beck released an unusual music project entitled Song Reader, which was pitched as “an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012.” According to Consequence of Sound, a press release announcing the “album” billed it as “twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded.” While it was undoubtedly a novel idea and Beck’s songwriting chops are formidable, it was also frustrating for his fans that don’t play or can’t read music.
“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,” the press released noted, stating the conundrum explicitly.
According to a post on his website today, however, Capitol Records will finally issue a “traditional release” of the Song Reader album on July 29. Produced by Beck and Randall Poster, all 20 Song Reader songs will be featured on the compilation, but in keeping with the project's original spirit, each song was recorded by a different artist.
The roster is impressive. Jack White, Fun., Norah Jones, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Loudon Wainwright III, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and Jack Black are among those tackling the songs. Beck himself presumably called first dibs and will appear on the tune “Heaven’s Ladder.”
Since the original release, Beck has staged a series of concerts performing the compositions along with several friends and musical guests. Check out a video of Jenny Lewis (who is opening for Beck at his Red Rocks show on Aug. 15) and Anne Hathaway (!) performing the lovely “Last Night You Were a Dream” above, along with the Song Reader track listing below:
1. Moses Sumney – Title of this Song
2. Fun – Please Leave A Light On When You Go
3. Tweedy – The Wolf is on the Hill
4. Norah Jones – Just Noise
5. Lord Huron – Last Night You Were A Dream
6. Bob Forrest – Saint Dude
7. Jack White – I’m Down
8. Beck – Heaven’s Ladder
9. Juanes – Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard
10. Laura Marling - Sorry
11. Jarvis Cocker - Eyes That Say “I Love You”
12. David Johansen – Rough On Rats
13. Jason Isbell – Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings
14. The Last Polka – Marc Ribot
15. Eleanor Friedberger – Old Shanghai
16. Sparks – Why Did You Make Me Care?
17. Swamp Dogg – America, Here’s My Boy
18. Jack Black – We All Wear Cloaks
19. Loudon Wainwright III – Do We? We Do
20. Gabriel Kahane with Ymusic – Mutilation Rag