Just a really happy guy: Desmond Reed MP3s
A few weeks ago, I received a MySpace message that I almost dismissed. It seemed too simple, a three-line note that basically said, “Here are some MP3s. It’d be neat if you listened to them.” There was none of the usual mention of other blogs the singer had appeared on, a record label I’d never heard of that he was signed to, or any long, oblique, unfounded comparison between him and some legendary artist. It was just a dashed-off postscript really, so I figured that the music would probably be pretty dashed-off too. But when I pressed on to hear Desmond Reed’s songs, I realized things weren’t as simple as they sounded.
This isn’t to say though that his songs aren’t simple. On one level, they certainly are. Reed’s music is a lo-fi project: just him, his guitar and a 4-track spinning away in his bedroom. The melodies are sunny, folky and sweet, and his casual delivery has a cheerful, wide-eyed innocence about it. His lyrics are mostly about everyday topics like dead-end jobs, crushes, homework assignments and being bored—pretty much a catalogue of life as a suburban high school student. But the more I listened (and I ended up listening a whole lot), the more I also picked up on some depths that set his music apart.
For one, Reed, only twenty-two years old and based in Orange, Massachusetts, is a deceptively talented writer. It’s easy to miss because he tackles such familiar subjects, but the vivid, precise details he chooses tell so much. On “Summer Vacation,” he sings about visiting his friend Brian’s house to play MLB ’99: “I’ve been working on my lineup/ Willie McGee is batting leadoff, Darryl Strawberry’s batting cleanup/ Mo Vaughn is batting third/ I write it all down in my notebook while I’m sitting on a rock/ While I’m standing in the front yard where I can see the sidewalk.” In just a few spare lines, he’s taken us back to the days of couchbound afternoons of PS1, swimming pool laps and Country Time lemonade mix.
Another interesting part of his music is the sadness that’s hidden under all the sunshine. As optimistic and joyful as Reed’s songs sound, sometimes his lyrics seem to be hinting at adolescence’s uglier side. “Summer Vacation” finds him not wanting to get out of bed and hanging out alone, wondering where all his friends are. Right after he finishes telling us how happy he is, he adds mysteriously, “Nobody noticed I’m starting to think/ A lot like I used to, too close to the brink.” He also jolts us with, “I know I’m running out of time” before retreating cutely with “'Cause I can’t call you after nine.” Even his best song, “Guinea Pigs,” can’t help but touch on his prized pets’ mortality: “Seventeen dollars for Mona, seventeen dollars for Floyd,/ Three weeks and then they got married and then had two girls and a boy/ Linda, Michelle, Nick and Howard, but Howard wasn’t born alive/ And that’s how two little guinea pigs can quickly turn into five.” It’s a wonderful, unique summary of how life works that’s simultaneously happy and disarming. Even more importantly though, it’s simple—simple in the best possible sense of the word.
* MP3: "Guinea Pigs" - Desmond Reed
* MP3: "Summer Vacation" - Desmond Reed
* MP3: "The Babysitters Club" - Desmond Reed [Visit him]
Tags: Desmond Reed, Guinea Pigs, Summer Vacation, Babysitters Club, MP3