By Jennie Orton
Beck’s Song Reader is an interactive project centered on a book of unproduced sheet music that the artist released a couple years ago. He is staging an online contest to get people to download the sheet music and send in their interpretation. The Song Reader album is some famous people doing just that, and it presents itself much like a high school talent show.
The popular kids come out first and do exactly what you’d expect them to do (Fun misses the point entirely, Jack White makes the song sound like his, Norah Jones sounds… and probably looks… pretty) and we all clap cause they’re popular. Then, from Marc Ribot’s whimsical take on “The Last Polka” and onward, we get the equivalent of the high school misfits that no one really knows and they KILL it. From Eleanor Friedberger’s warm and bravely soulful, “Old Shanghai,” to the vaudevillian glam rock drama of Sparks’ “Why Did You Make Me Care?” the B-side of this album gets everything right about why Beck is such a diverse and exciting artist full of effortlessly individual poetics and nerd swagger beats. By the time Rufus Wainwright’s dad, Loudon Wainwright III, wraps his cheeky lips around “Do We? We Do,” you are reminded what a chameleonic force of nature Beck really is. You also walk away a fan of some artists you may never have known about, which is exactly why you buy the whole album and not just the big name singles.Beck, Song Reader