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The Month Ahead: Music

What to see, read and listen to in December



Here’s the thing about Song Reader, the latest release from relentlessly inventive singer-songwriter Beck: It’s not a record. It’s a lavishly illustrated, idiosyncratic book of original sheet music. In other words, if you want to hear it, you’re on your own.

Song Reader is a throwback to the days before recorded music, when popular songs were performed at home. “The idea of sitting around a piano and playing a song with your friends and your family was as much a part of our consciousness as Facebook is now,” Beck says. “People didn’t have a definitive version of a song. They came up with their own slant. You got so many variations of songs, they developed eccentricities.”

The music in Song Reader was composed as a simple framework, open to interpretation. “Use it as a starting point,” Beck says. “Take the music and write your own lyrics, or take the lyrics and write your own music.” The possibilities are limitless. “Willie Nelson could sing one, and a pop singer could sing a different one, and a jazz singer could do one.

“It’s gonna have its own life,” he says. “It’s gonna be every man, woman and child for themselves.” DEC. 7

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If you were to chart the relative coolness of every activity on earth, you could be reasonably confident that “cruise ship concert” and “desert music festival” would occupy opposite ends of the scale. Which makes S.S. Coachella cruises a bit of a puzzle. The first two set sail this month from Fort Lauderdale—heading for the Bahamas and Jamaica, respectively—with live music by such indie darlings as Pulp (pictured), Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Sleigh Bells and former LCD Sound system mastermind James Murphy. In lieu of bingo and ballroom dancing lessons, meanwhile, there are DJ tutorials and pub crawls. There’s no telling whether it’ll be the biggest maritime coup since the mutiny on the Bounty or a supposedly fun thing no one will ever do again. Either way, the possibility of running into Jarvis Cocker in the buffet line has to count for something. Bahamas, Dec. 16-19; Jamaica, Dec. 19-23

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