I know very little about music. A vast amount of my Spotify wrapped includes Taylor Swift (about whom I know a lot), and what doesn’t is an eclectic mix of songs I’ve stolen from my friends’ music tastes and now appropriate as my own. So when it comes to reviewing music, I am hugely underqualified to do so. All of which is to say: take the following with a pinch of salt.
I do, however, have a small obsession with Noah Kahan. You will find me on Hot Girl Walks listening to him, blasting his music in the car at full volume with the windows down, and sending his songs to my friends at every opportunity. Last April, we booked tickets to see an artist called Dermot Kennedy – whose songs I still can’t name even one of – just because Noah Kahan was his opener. The whole fiasco to get to the concert during train strikes involved borrowing a friend’s car with a worryingly dodgy clutch, driving two hours there (and a horrendous four hours back), all for a set that lasted under 45 minutes.
So what is it about Kahan’s music that made those 45 minutes worth it?
Noah Kahan writes music that centres around his experience growing up in rural America, his struggles with alcoholism and mental health, and the ties he has to his hometown and the people in it as they grow up and leave. His writing hits a poignant note that captures the restlessness of being ready to leave home, but not being ready to say goodbye yet – the perfect album for his audience of students and young people moving away from home for the first time.
This explains why you may have heard the title track of the album going around TikTok, as well as its other single, Northern Attitude. Choosing which songs to tell you about is nearly impossible: it’s an album with virtually no skips. But let me suggest that you get into it the way I did, dipping your toes in the water with the titular single, moving on to the opening track of Northern Attitude, followed by Homesick and Everywhere, Everything, before you slow down a bit and brave the (more) emotional tracks of Growing Sideways and Orange Juice, two absolutely killer songs about Kahan’s experience with therapy and his friends’ experiences with a traumatic accident. I know it sounds like it might be a bit too heavy-hitting, but trust me, it’s worth it. Kahan writes in a way that is moving and hits the right balance between songs that touch on real life, whilst also making them perfectly cathartic to sing (shout) along to. His vivid and memorable lyrics will be stuck on repeat in your head for weeks.
Stick Season gets its name from that time of year when the trees have lost all their leaves but it hasn’t yet snowed for the first time; a kind of liminal space between Hallowe’en and Christmas. Not only does this make it the perfect album to listen to as Michaelmas becomes colder and greyer, but it’s also perfect for branching out your music taste this term. Driven by Kahan’s voice and guitar, the album builds to some incredible bridges, backed by a steady, subtle kick drum (and yes, I did google what that is) that propels the music forward. There’s also some banjo in there, but it’s in a cool, folk-pop way that adds dimension that lets you immerse yourself, rather than the more Keith Urban brand.
The deluxe version of the album (Stick Season: We’ll All Be Here Forever), released at the beginning of June, also includes The View Between Villages (Extended Version), a haunting, incredible song that takes you with Kahan as he returns to his hometown. If any song is a must-listen, this one is. It’s a haunting song that you won’t be able to help getting swept up in. It starts out with Kahan’s vocals alone, slowly joined by the same drum as before, as he drives into the town. The guitar joins in to pick up the pace, the feeling a bit like you’re driving downhill, full speed, alongside Kahan. He passes all the monuments to his childhood, and you’re right there with him. A friend of mine listened to it for the first time and got literal goosebumps. It is full volume in the car, windows down kind of music. Hozier meets Phoebe Bridgers meets the nostalgia of The Lumineers. I love it.
Since his huge success in the UK in April 2023, (2023 I’m assuming?), Noah Kahan has announced another tour around the UK in November, which sold out in less than five minutes. This resulted in extra dates being added and a second set of shows in February of 2024 (which has also sold out already – sorry to anyone who I’ve convinced to start listening). In the last few weeks alone, Kahan has been covered by Olivia Rodrigo, written songs with Zach Bryan, Lizzy McAlpine, and Post Malone, and has been covered on social media by a whole host of prominent artists.
There you have it, then: the Stick Season songs seem set to stay on my playlists for the foreseeable future, and if the We’ll All Be Here Forever extra tracks are anything to go by, Kahan isn’t looking at stopping writing hit songs any time soon.