By Ethan Bloomfield, Contributor
[Run For Cover Records; 2020]
Key tracks: “-h-o-u-s-e-k-e-y-z-”, “older now (it hurts)”, “before your body goes”
2020 is not a year for connection. Amidst the pandemic and months of isolation, it is sometimes hard to feel a true, heartfelt connection with others. During this time, though, music remains one of the main defenses against boredom for many people, and reminders of humanity and closeness still shine through within it. This is more than evident on Floral Prince, the new full-length project from lo-fi musician Field Medic, aka Kevin Patrick Sullivan. This album is a journey through love, addiction, time and all the things that make us human, creating a beautifully genuine and personal experience for the listener.
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This feeling of authenticity starts immediately on the opening track, “-h-o-u-s-e-k-e-y-z-”. The raw folk guitar springs to life accompanying the lyrics “traded my creative whim / for a level head & a phantom limb,” a likely allusion to sobering up. Sullivan touches on his vices more than once throughout these tracks, solidifying it as a key theme on Floral Prince.
Sex is another theme on this album and the focal point of “i want you so bad it hurts”. He tells a story about a girl he can’t stop thinking about: how they might hook up, break up and get back together, but he still wants her anyway. Although this song saw success as the album’s single, it feels like an outlier contextually. Drugs and their effects are central to Sullivan’s perspective on Floral Prince, especially on the songs “talkin johnny & june (your arms around me)”, “TRANQUILIZED”, and most notably, “it’s so lonely being sober”.
“it’s so lonely being sober” tells the story of someone who put their life together, apart from drugs and addiction. This might sound like a happy premise, as he even proclaims positive effects stating, “I’m feeling proud & my stomach’s doing better / I even started doing push-ups / and my dick’s harder than ever,” but this sobriety comes at a price. The drugs, harkening back to the very first song, “-h-o-u-s-e-k-e-y-z-”, gave Sullivan his “creative whim”. He laments “but the world is far from me now / it used to feel much closer / it’s so lonely being sober,” admitting that although the drugs were killing him, they were also essential to his artistic process.
Authentic emotion can also be felt on Floral Prince’s happy-sounding tracks, like “HEADCASE” with its bright acoustic guitars and harmonica solo in the last half. “i will not mourn who i was that has gone away” is another fast-paced number that succeeds in feeling nostalgic, universal and oh so intimate, telling the listener not to look at the past, but to look toward the future. Sullivan’s distinct vocals sound amateurish and rambly in the best way, like a live singer in a corner bar you frequent on the weekends.
Finally, “older now (it hurts)” and “before your body goes” cover Sullivan’s anxieties surrounding time and aging. The characters in the songs try to become better people, reminiscing on better times. “older now (it hurts)” details a dream of Sullivan’s where he wakes up in the morning, makes coffee and eventually gets dressed. As he tries to put on some high waisted pants, they don’t fit like they used to. If that isn’t universally human, what is?
From a technical standpoint, this album is a huge step up from his previous work. His 2017 album Songs from the Sunroom is another great release, but its harsh reverb and warped vocals are reminiscent of fellow RFC Records alumni Teen Suicide, albeit a lot more restrained. Floral Prince on the other hand is much more stripped back, technically proficient and tighter than his earlier releases.
If Floral Prince is anything, it is honest. It is an album filled with stories of people with real lives and real problems. Nothing more, nothing less. It tells stories in much the same way that All Hail West Texas by The Mountain Goats does: with heart and absolutely no frills. The album is a glimpse into Sullivan’s life, detailing his personal struggles in relationships, his profession and within himself. It is human in a time when human connection is needed most.