Beck’s ‘Song Reader’: Listen to Five Wildly Different Song Interpretations

Photo courtesy of Beck Facebook

While we pointed out that Beck’s new album of sheet music isn’t exactly a new thing, the internet sure makes it easy for would-be cover bands to record and post his work for the rest of us to hear. Fans have been flooding the Song Reader website with their own submissions; some great, some not-so-great. Here’s five must-hear spins on this latest Beck endeavor.

1. Portland Cello Project Perform Song Reader in its Entirety

In a Q&A with McSweeney’s posted to the official Song Reader site, Beck said of the whole project: “These songs are meant to be pulled apart and reshaped. The idea of them being played by choirs, brass bands, string ensembles, anything outside of traditional rock-band constructs — it’s interesting because it’s outside of where my songs normally exist.”

This wish was made manifest in a recent endeavor by the Portland Cello Project, who recorded all 20 of the tracks on the album with help from a ton of rich-voiced contributors like Jolie Holland, Lizzie Ellison and Patti King. The final effect is predictably much more Tin Pan Alley than two turntables and a microphone. Check out “Eyes That Say I Love You” below and stream the whole thing here.

Embedded from
2. Stephin Merritt’s “Old Shanghai”

When WNYC’s Soundcheck asked the Magnetic FieldsStephin Merritt about his first reaction to Beck’s Song Reader project, Merrit replied, “McSweeney’s, why didn’t they ask me?” A fitting response, given that the musician would also be a prime candidate for such an endeavor. The proof is in this excellent interpretation of “Old Shanghai” that Merritt performed on the radio show, in which he wore bells on his fingers and played a toy piano balanced on a tambourine that was balanced on a pen.

Embedded from