Beck: Song Reader

Beck: Song Reader

(Capitol, 7/29/14)

"Heaven's Ladder"


Nearly two years ago, Beck released more than 100 pages of sheet music and artwork (published via McSweeney’s) comprised of 20 original, previously unrecorded songs. His latest LP, Song Reader, sees those tracks come alive with the help of 19 various artists including Tweedy, Norah Jones, and Jack White (as well as financial aid from eyewear supplier Warby Parker, which is donating the project’s profits to 826 National—a nonprofit that helps young students with creative writing).

Beck himself performs just one song (co-produced by Wes Anderson and Randall Poster), the melodic, too-up-tempo-for-Morning Phase “Heaven’s Ladder,” which—as the album’s best track—proves that no one knows Beck’s music better than Mr. Hansen himself. But varying styles from the likes of multi-genre guitarist and composer Marc Ribot (the instrumental “The Last Polka,” which sounds exactly how its title suggests), Eleanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces (the beautiful balladry that is “Old Shanghai”), and Sparks (giving layered urgency to “Why Did You Make Me Care?”) breathe the eclectic life into Song Reader that Beck pined for since its inception back in 2004.