Kevin Patrick, aka Field Medic, begins his first properly realized album, Fade into the Dawn, with one of the sharpest opening lines in indie rock history. "Used 2 Be a Romantic" finds its protagonist, the mid-level touring musician in a loud dive bar, defeatedly proclaiming "I need a cigarette, those fuckers talked over my whole set." These are the first words we hear on an album rich with Patrick's uniquely intimate style, one that blends aching narratives with understated humor and optimism. Along with the lament of the touring musician leaning on alcohol to get through a rough night, Patrick's songs offer emotionally raw portrayals of self-acceptance, anxiety, and sweetly hopeful excitement. Up until this point, Field Medic's immense discography was made up of raw lo-fi recordings, with Patrick sometimes going so far as improvising entire EPs directly into a four-track recorder. Still coated in a warm sheen of fuzz, Fade into the Dawn is a relatively larger-scale production, being the first Field Medic material to include lead guitar overdubs and to implement live drums instead of minimal drum machine rhythms. It's by no means a slick production, though, with Patrick evoking some of the same shambling magic as Neutral Milk Hotel on bright songs like "Mood Ring Baby" and "Songs R Worthless Now." Along with driftingly melancholic acoustic numbers like "The Bottle's My Lover, She's Just My Friend," the instrumentation sometimes tends toward a more down-home take on folk, with banjo and stomping kick drum driving the joyful "Tournament Horseshoe." He returns to the four-track for "Henna Tattoo," a bittersweet depiction of feeling left out while watching others find love. The muted quality of the recording supports the sad-hearted tone of the song, with acoustic guitars and blurry drum machine rhythms embodying the feeling that you're fading into the background of a love story that doesn't include you. The intimacy that Patrick conjures throughout Fade into the Dawn is a rare type. Strangely hued musical textures and bracingly vulnerable lyrics congeal into a warm, open-hearted chronicle of the songwriter's days. All ten songs highlight different strengths of Patrick's smiling sensibilities, and he tempers moments of sadness with a spring-like enthusiasm that touches even the darkest corners of the album. Fade into the Dawn gathers together the best of Field Medic's scattered impulses and boils away the excess, resulting in a highly listenable and silently inspiring collection.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas