Tune-in Wednesday, March 6 at 9 p.m. to hear Minnesota bands cover Beck's Song Reader.
Beck, the eclectic artist known best for his 1994 hit "Loser," but also for a string of subsequent critically-acclaimed albums, recently released his 12th album — but it isn't really an album.
When Beck first hit our radar in the early 90s with his sonically bilingual hit, "Loser," it was easy to imagine him as a one-hit wonder. But he came back with the hip-hop and country-tinged collage that was Odelay, and continued to surprise us with ventures into tropicalia, R&B, retro-pop, and country. By the time he released 2002's whammy of a heartbreaker, Sea Change, we'd come to know Beck as something of a musical chameleon — a guy who went where his interests took him, and inhabited musical styles with a playful earnestness that transcended costuming.
It's probably no surprise, then, to learn that Beck's newest album isn't really an album at all. Beck Hansen's Song Reader (now in its second printing) is a hardbound collection of 20 songs rendered as sheet music, released in December by McSweeney's Publishing. With the exception of one song performed at a benefit concert, Beck hasn't performed any of these songs live. They can't be downloaded, and you can't buy them on CD. The only way to hear these songs is to play them yourself, much in the way popular music was consumed a century ago. Before the days of radio, the best way to hear a song was to play it. Songs were written primarily for that purpose, and lent themselves to the performer's interpretation of them.
When we first heard about this book at The Current, our first thought was, naturally, how the hell are we gonna play these songs on the radio? So we thought it would be cool to invite local artists to bring these songs to life. Tune in this Sunday night at 9 for The Current Presents Beck Hansen's Song Reader. You'll hear fourteen local artists — including John Munson, Prissy Clerks, the Twin Cities Funk and Soul All-Stars, Chris Koza, Heavy Deeds and more — perform thirteen of the songs in Beck's new book. Plus, you'll hear a conversation I had with Beck just a couple weeks ago — why he'd undertake such a project, and what the response has been so far.
Huge thanks to Minnesota Public Radio Promotions Producer John Miller for volunteering his free time to help with the planning, recording and mixing of this show. Without his expert curating and production assistance, this fun and exciting project would have never taken flight.
While you're here, check out photos and video from the recording session, and find out how you can perform and share your own renditions of Beck's new songs.
Playlist (click "Listen" above to hear them all)
1. Prissy Clerks – "Don't Act Like Your Heart Isn't Hard"
2. Big Cats – "Eyes That Say I Love You"
3. Matt Latterell – "Saint Dude"
4. Niki Becker – "Do We? We Do"
5. Twin Cities Funk & Soul All-Stars featuring Sonny Knight – "Sorry" (Download MP3)
6. The Doctors (former members of Colonial Watts) – "Just Noise" (Download MP3)
7. Gabriel Douglas – "We All Wear Cloaks"
8. Eleganza – "I'm Down" (Download MP3)
9. Bad Mom – "Last Night You Were a Dream"
10. The Roe Family Singers – "America, Here's My Boy"
11. John Munson – "Do We? We Do"
12. Chris Koza – "Wolf on the Hill"
13. Heavy Deeds – "Please Leave a Light On"
14. Dreamland Faces – "Last Polka"
Do you feel ready to record your own cover? At SongReader.net, you can download a song ("Old Shanghai") from Beck Hansen's Song Reader and upload your performance. Once you do, come back here and share a link to your performance in the comments!
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