Beck Hansen joined a long line of artists taking an unconventional approach to releasing an album today, bringing his own concept of having fans design cover art on 2006’s The Information to another user-driven level: Old is new again for this December’s Song Reader, a 20-song collection comprised of sheet music, in which those hoping to hear the tunes are encouraged to pick up an instrument and hit record themselves. Cover renditions will abound, though, as McSweeney’s will host tracks made by readers and select musicians in the months to come. Given the experiment’s strong visual element, Beck did go all-in on the physical release:
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), Song Readeris 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.
Artist Marcel Dzama (who worked on Guero and a video clip for Arcade Fire, among other music and non-music projects of note), Leanne Shapton, Josh Cochran, Jessica Hische, and others provided illustrations. Preview the sheet music for “Do We? We Do” above, while more samples of Song Reader artwork are below: