the ultimate sad boy indie
Leeza Isaeva
21:56 13th October 2022

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For some, cutting your hair is the ultimate metonym for change and self-actualisation. For Kevin Patrick Sullivan, the man behind the musical project Field Medic, renewal and agency is found in growing your hair long.

This title – its length reminiscent of The 1975 or a Fall Out Boy song – comes from ‘house arrest’, a track unrepresentative of the album in its optimism and length. Most tracks on grow your hair long if you’re wanting to see something that you can change are characterised by melancholy and brevity. The moments of lightness and relief on ‘house arrest’, as Sullivan’s vocals rise to sing ‘one day’, make the record, but unfortunately they are few and far in between.

The pivotal change on this record from previous Field Medic projects is the arrival of producer Gabe Goodman, Sullivan’s first long-term recording collaboration. At its best, this partnership blends the authenticity of bedroom-written tracks which have been sonically filled out in the studio, such as ‘i had a dream that you died’ and ‘stained glass’. Elsewhere, the fuller production is at odds with the emotional core of the album. The closing track, ‘i had my fun/back to the start’, holds the most cathartic moment of the album, indicating by cinematic string pads and an initially distant percussive beat. Rather than the fuller sound that Sullivan aimed for, the production is emotionally didactic and overshadows the altogether more gentle and subtle lyrics.

Throughout, Sullivan’s lyricism wavers between intricate wordplay and aphorism. In ‘noonday sun’, Sullivan hopes to have ‘cleaned up the wreck from this recklessness’, a motif which returns in ‘house arrest’ when Sullivan is ‘being pulled from the wreck’ and the ‘reckoning’ in religiously-inflected ‘stained glass’. Elsewhere, it doesn’t quite pack the punch it hopes to. The shift from ‘weekends are the hardest part’ to ‘being is the hardest part’ in ‘weekends’ doesn’t carry the weight it needs to make such a statement without it coming off as cliché, and keen listeners are encouraged to read Heather Christle’s poem instead. Sonically standout track ‘i think about you all the time’ is positioned as a generic love song, but carries much more meaning with awareness that it was written about drinking and sobriety, themes present throughout Sullivan’s discography. Nevertheless, this is only evident from press releases; unlike the clever lyricism of Elliott Smith’s classic ‘Between the Bars’, there is little allusion within Sullivan’s words to its deeper meaning.

Playing at just 30 minutes, grow your hair long is soft, palatable, and equal parts poignant and uneven. The sad-boy-indie-folk vibe will find Spotify playlists and listeners, but the biggest potential for Field Medic appears to be in further experimentation in production, which allows Sullivan to expand his sonic dimensions without sacrificing the appeal in his authentic lyricism.

grow your hair long if you’re wanting to see something that you can change is out now

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