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Beck to Release New Album ‘Song Reader’ as Book of Sheet Music

Jonathan Wood, Getty Images

Fans eagerly awaiting a new album from Beck, your time has come — only with one little catch: You have to play the tunes yourself. The alt-rock icon has announced plans to release something called ‘The Beck Hansen Song Reader,’ featuring 20 previously unheard songs existing only in the form of sheet music. You do know what sheet music is, don’t you?

As the press release explains:

[The Beck Hansen’s Song Reader] is an almost-forgotten form — twenty 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 (and, when necessary, ukelele notation), the ‘Song Reader’ is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012 — an 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.

Got all that? In terms of concept albums, this is about as high-concept as things get, and comes with an impressive collection of original art from the likes of Marcel Dzama (the man behind Beck’s ‘Guero’ cover), Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische and many others. New York Times writer Jody Rosen serves up an introduction, which pairs nicely with a foreword by Beck himself.

The package itself is a total of 108 pages comprising 20 individual full-color song booklets — 18 with original lyrics, two instrumentals – and will be released in December by the McSweeny’s publishing house.

In the meantime, Beck has announced plans for a surprise show at Bimbo’s in San Francisco that’s set for Thursday (Aug. 9) ahead of his appearance at this weekend’s Outside Lands festival.

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