When you’re an internationally-acclaimed indie rock songwriter like Beck, you can do whatever the F you want. You can voice a character in the Rugrats movie. You can build a waterslide into a giant vat of Diet Pepsi. You can breed standard poodles paired to create an ultradog that looks exactly like Kim Kardashian in dog form) You can release an album that’s no album at all — it’s a book — and you can tell people, “come on, man, don’t be a square, that’s my new album maaaaaaan.” You can do whatever you want because you’re Beck and even my mom knows who you are and is moved to tears in 30 seconds or less of hearing the opening track from Sea Change.
Now, Beck could do all the things listed above, if he wanted to. But Beck’s not that kinda guy; he doesn’t want to abuse the power the Gods of Indie Rock have given him. So he’s only done, say, half of the magical things on that list. (I’ll let you guess which ones.) And now he really is releasing that long-awaited new album as a book — well, a song reader, rather. What’s a song reader, you say? What are you, born after 1930? A song reader is — according to a press release — “an almost-forgotten form — twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded.” So naturally Beck Hansen’s Song Reader, released in conjunction with (who else?) McSweeney’s is the rootin’ tootin’est song reader this side of World War I, complete with full color era-evocative illustrations, ukulele notations (when “necessary”), and a fancy hardcover carrying case. The song reader features 20 new Beck songs, plus illustrations from artists Marcel Dzama (who also arted on Beck’s Guero), Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische, Leanne Shapton, and the always intriguing “many more.” There’s also an introduction by Jody Rosen (Slate, New York Times) and a foreword by Mr. Hansen himself. Beck Hansen’s Song Reader drops, in its 108 color illustrated paged glory, sometime in December.