Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Noah Kahan writes like he grew up across the street from you

Kahan’s latest album stuns with intricate lyricism and heart
Noah Kahan – IMDb

Noah Kahan is well-known for his folk rock/folk pop sound, featuring atmospheric guitar fingerpicking techniques and deep, introspective lyrics. His third studio album “Stick Season” came out in 2022, centering around both the pain and preciousness of the human experience.

This was expanded upon in 2023 when the deluxe version was released, titled “Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)” which presents seven new songs with a familiar lyrical sharpness. This album does not stray from his usual folk pop sound, the acoustic guitar remaining at the forefront of each song. He keeps each track both unique and cohesive through production and contrasting lyrical elements.

Throughout the album, Kahan uses layered acoustic guitar to keep an earthy sound across powerful moments. Bass and drums are featured far less than his folk pop counterparts. Despite this, his songs never feel empty, save for some quiet moments that feel pointedly hopeless or raw. The smooth timbre of the acoustic guitar contrasts with the raspy and rich tone of his voice, immediately setting up a heavy emotional tone. With 21 songs centered around the same vocalist and main instrument, contrasting elements give each track its own unique character. Kahan plays around with verse and chorus length, form and dynamics throughout the deluxe album.

This concept of acoustic instruments backed by a powerful vocalist is not a new one, as many other artists are becoming more lyric-focused rather than highlighting catchy melodic motifs or complex instrumental backings. This trend is seen in Lizzy McAlpine’s “five seconds flat” and The 502’s “Pure Serotonin.”

Kahan separates himself from other artists with his masterful use of lyrics. He uses incredibly specific details about his own life and experiences, such as singing a full phone number (“I still dial 822993167” from “She Calls Me Back”) or the name of a street (“In the sad house on Balch Street” from “Come Over”).

Kahan ties these hyper-specific lines back to the universal emotion or experience he is trying to convey. While the songs seem personal to him, we feel it too. This kind of lyricism highlights the very human phenomenon of holding onto small bits of information that relate to more significant moment in our lives. He swiftly flips between precise details about himself and abstract, poetic points that support each other.

“Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)” features another unique and relatable aspect of its lyricism: its focus on rural New England towns. It is extremely common in the pop music industry to write about city culture, parties, hookups and substance use. However, the quieter, duller parts of the United States are not often written about. Kahan uses these characteristics to paint intricate pictures of nostalgia and childhood innocence, bringing his listeners back to their hometowns through his words.

It does not matter that Kahan was raised in a small town in Vermont and most of his listeners weren’t, because the universal feeling of a small town is accurately portrayed. This technique makes the album feel inherently connected to Kahan while maintaining its universality. Even his titles emphasize this, as “Orange Juice,” “Halloween” and “Paul Revere” all conjure feelings of childhoods in New England.

Introspective, deeply moving lyrics have always been his forte, but Kahan made the ingenious decision to expand upon his detailed lyrical style for ”Stick Season.” Placing limited vocal and instrumental complexities alongside intentional and powerful lyrics, “Stick Season” is a poetic and moving album, its beautiful relatability responsible for Kahan’s fast-growing fanbase.

Kiera McMahon can be reached at [email protected]

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