BECK at the Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard East), Monday (August 12). $35. 416-870-8000.
In an era when artists are increasingly paranoid about their new material leaking out online before its official release date, often going so far as not even to send out pre-release review copies, Beck seems to be courting bootlegging.
The singer/songwriter's as-yet-untitled new album doesn't come out until September 24, but Beck's already unveiling a song a week on his Web site, www.beck.com. Maybe giving away his tunes for free is his way of getting back at his record label; the songwriter is part of the Recording Artists Coalition, a group that believes record companies are screwing musicians through their contracts.
Regardless of his motivation, the album clearly captures Beck in a grim mood. Recorded with Nigel Godrich, the five songs already up on the site and the others bootlegged elsewhere on the Web are melancholic folk tunes occasionally dressed up with strings and filmic arrangements. The highlight of the record is the hyper-dramatic Paper Tiger, which sounds like a remake of Serge Gainsbourg's Ballade De Melody Nelson.
Streaming the song two months before its release date might be questionable business, but at least fans will know all the words by the time Beck rolls into the Ryerson Theatre Monday (August 12).