A friend was going through a quarter life crisis recently and said that one of his issues was that he’s been too into hipster culture and now feels like he’s entirely unrelatable. I consoled him, saying “There’s always someone more hipster than you, Beck Hansen”.
In case you’ve forgotten during his long hiatus Beck Hansen is an indie-pop singer/songwriter who has a habit of completely changing his style upon each release. He gained moderate mainstream success with 1993’s “Loser” and 2005’s “Girl”, and has collaborated with everyone from Pearl Jam to Childish Gambino.
Beck’s latest release, “Song Reader”, proves once again that he is the uberhipster. Someone so obscure that no other human being could possibly come close. “Song Reader” is not an album or a single, it is a book of sheet music composed by Beck to be played by a small ensemble. Hansen has refused to release a recorded performance of the album, forcing non-musicians to seek out versions performed by others.
In fact, up until this week the music community at large was subjected to poor quality YouTube videos if they wished to hear “Song Reader”. Thankfully though the bastion of all hipsterdom, NPR, posted a full album performance from the excellent musicians at The Portland Cello Project. And I must say, even performed by a cello-based group with female vocalists “Song Reader” still feels like a Beck album. It’s full of alt-country twang like his earlier material, but has some really big ethereal tracks like his middle “Sea Change” period.
But even if the album were crap, Beck would still have made his point. He is more obscure than you or any of your friends will ever be. Though not nearly as experimental as other hipster acts like Animal Collective and of Montreal, Beck has proven himself once again as the most obscure musician out there.
I really kind of hope this turns into a mini-trend where other artists emulate “Song Reader” and release music for live performance. Partially because performance possesses a level of intimacy that even vinyl can’t come close to. But mostly so that when Fun. puts out a full score I can say that such a move was really only cool the first time around with Beck way back in 2012.