There’s an interesting dynamic at play when you discover an album “naturally” on your own. You had no involvement in its creation, no connection to its author, and you probably weren’t even aware of its existence until the second you stumbled across it. In all likelihood, that “discovery” was just a file served up by an algorithm trying to give you something it thinks you might like… yet there’s still a strange sense of pride in uncovering something new and falling in love with it.
Over the past year it feels like I’ve been subsisting almost entirely on new recommendations and old favorites, but just this past month I made a discovery that has gripped me in the most fantastic and unexpected way. While I’ve been enamored with the music itself, the fact that I discovered it on my own just makes the album feel all the more precious and one-of-a-kind. Lately I have been posting a lot of overly-long and/or abjectly-goofy write-ups, so I just wanted to hit you guys with a quick recommend and introduce you to one of my favorite new artists: Field Medic.
Field Medic is the pseudonym of Kevin Patrick Sullivan, a San Franciscan creating a self-described amalgamation of “freak folk, bedroom pop, and post country.” Despite the barrage of genres I just used to describe his music, nearly everything created under the Field Medic moniker is immediately accessible, instantly catchy, and impressively melodic.
Sullivan’s 2017 full-length Songs From the Sunroom was recorded during a “heightened creative period” in which he was writing, creating, and recording music in the titular sunroom of his San Francisco apartment. Bearing a singular lo-fi charm throughout, Sunroom strikes a perfect balance between a handful of disparate genres and packages them all up in one compact 46-minute listen.
The lowercase love ballad “uuu” was the first Field Medic song I heard, its title immediately sticking out amongst a playlist as a post-internet embrace of non-conventional capitalization. The track itself is a laid-back acoustic jam that sounds like it’s coming through a record player from an alternate universe. The next song titled “GYPSY DEAD GIRL” is the album’s emotional centerpiece, a heart-aching pang of vulnerability and hurt wrapped in an immensely-catchy melody. With crests of high-pitched vocal strain, the song culminates in a cathartic cry of its title before ultimately settling away to a single programmed drumbeat.
Whacky song titles aside, there’s lots of genre experimentation here from “NEON FLOWERZ” and its warbly hip-hop beat to the jaunty “do a little dope (live)” which is a just straight-up country song. Other highlights include the trippy “p e g a s u s t h o t z” and the beautifully-stripped-down “OTL,” both of which depict two sides of the same relationship coin from equally-stark perspectives. Finally, the late-album cut “fuck these foolz that are making valencia street unchill” is a verbose and hilariously-spiteful Bob Dylan-esque song of gentrification and displacement in the tech cradle of San Francisco.
Every song off Songs From the Sunroom adds a different flavor to the record, yet at the same time, they all blend together, creating a consistent and charming lo-fi haze. Sullivan manages to strike a wonderful balance between his alt-country poetry and straight-up pop-music levels of earworminess. Sunroom is an intoxicating mix of gut-punching emotional indie and bouncy banjo-plucked alt-country. The lyrics oscillate between deeply-resonating beat poetry and realist slice of life tales, all interspersed with gummy choruses and phrases that lodge themselves in your head.
And speaking of balance, part of my love for this album probably comes from where I’m at in life right now. Stuck between a million choices in my personal and professional life, I feel absolutely paralyzed and frozen that any choice I make could be the wrong one. Sometimes the right thing presents itself to you at the right time, and this album came to me like divine intervention. The exact sort of remorse and reflective nostalgia that I crave in this early phase of the year. I’ve felt emotionally stagnant for months, but this album has managed to spark something inside that moved me on a cosmic level. I’m glad that Songs From the Sunroom is around for me to appreciate it, and I want to formally thank Kevin Sullivan for ushering this creation into the world.