Field Medic, the Los Angeles-based solo project of Kevin Patrick, isn’t from an arbitrary midwestern city—before Los Angeles, Patrick called San Francisco home—but his music bears a strong resemblance to the punk-turned-acoustic style that thrives in basements across the forgotten towns of America.
On Field Medic’s first formal full-length album for Run For Cover Records, fade into the dawn, Patrick continues his penchant for vulnerable, soft-spoken folk punk that manages to feel a little odd, but mostly familiar. It’s both a strength and a weakness: Field Medic’s music makes space with its commonplace, acoustic-DIY aesthetics for Patrick’s voice and the emotional content of the songs to lead the way. When the songwriting is on, it’s music that can move you. When the songwriting lacks, its likeable but forgettable. In truth, the value of this music will likely vary more by how much any individual listener can relate.
Fade into the dawn opens with Patrick leaning into that punk music culture on “used 2 be a romantic” as he contemplates on an often-underwhelming life on the road. It’s a good sample of what’s to come: acoustic guitars paired with cheap drum machines, Appalachian twang-lite singing about girls and being a musician, and just a little bit of banjo here and there. It also introduces Patrick’s back-and-forth relationship with alcohol, a primary theme of the album. “I swore that I’d quit but I’d need a drink tonight,” he sings with unconvincing resolve in the song’s chorus.
Field Medic sounds most singular on “henna tattoo,” though still far from revolutionary. The four-track fidelity and sputtering drum machine enhance the simple but relatable lyrics comparing a fading relationship to a similarly impermanent henna tattoo. Even on that track, the recording quality has technically improved from Field Medic’s previous releases, but its more present on the rest of the album with Patrick’s guitar and banjo almost sparkling and his voice generally more present and upfront.
The increased fidelity works well on the more obviously Americana-inflected “i was wrong” and “the bottle’s my lover, she’s just my friend,” the later reaching the pinnacle of Patrick’s struggle with alcohol, but finds an odd balance on “everydayz 2moro,” where the cheap drum machine comes through a little too clearly and moves into cheesy territory. That song suffers from a bit of groan-worthy lyricism as well, most obvious in the over-repetitive “let’s live like every day’s tomorrow” chorus, but not helped by the somewhat-stale story of bum-boy-in-a-band finds love with girl-who-has-her-life-together-and-puts-up-with-his-mess.
While there’s certainly charm in Field Medic’s small arrangements and fragile delivery, it’s an act that many will be familiar with already that rehashes old narratives and, frankly, dated ideas of male as fragile artist and female as muse—Patrick explicitly acknowledges and then spends the entirety of “mood ring baby” reciting that trope with no apparent irony. The music is often sweet and sentimental, but not often extraordinary.