Exclusive Download: Portland Cello Project Teases Beck's 'Song Reader'

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Back in August, Beck Hansen announced what we determined would be his most unlistenable album yet, literally. Instead of a new record, the shape-shifting musician is releasing what he calls the Song Reader, a 20-song collection of sheet music, due out in December.

As anticipation over the song book continues to build, Beck recently dropped his first single from the project -- on paper at least -- called "Old Shanghai." And now, the recordings are coming in. One of the first bands to release a track of the tune is the Portland Cello Project – the indie orchestra known for its interpretations of chart-topping pop and hip-hop. Here, they get the (almost) first word instead, with the vocalist Lizzy Ellison. (They also shared a video.)

Band member Douglas Jenkins wrote this to me, about the group's take on "Old Shanghai," which we're offering as an exclusive download:

"The feel of the song, the nostalgic lyrics, the way the chords develop, is old-timey (much like the whole aesthetic we've seen thus far of the Song Reader). Lizzy's voice is perfect, steamy, sultry. The trumpet part is more or less as Beck wrote it. Cellos are improvising on the sax and tuba parts, and the rest of the strings and the ukulele are laying down a dreamy bed of sound which is intended to sound lush and nostalgic."

We’re looking forward to the next few months as more bands start weighing in. Because anyone can play these songs. Even Beck. (Hint, hint).