ALBUM REVIEW: Noah Kahan – Stick Season – October 2022

Noah Kahan’s new album, Stick Season debuted October 14th 2022 and has had 58 Million streams. He’s out touring the album from this fall until February 2023.

The Vermont native sold out the MGM Music Hall at Fenway. Over five thousand people came to see a fellow northerner take the stage. The room had a different feeling, it felt more like catching up with distant childhood friends. Everyone in the room had something in common, whether connected by placement or connected by hometowns. By the end we had all been connected through Noah Kahan. The room began to feel warm and fans became a little less rigid while singing along to his latest album Stick Season. The songs composed in his most recent album make just about anyone feel homesick for New England. 

Bostonians who attended the show came back to their roots for a few moments. Many of us flock to warmer weather as soon as we can. For those who stay, maybe they dream of snowless winters and palm trees, or perhaps they love the North just as it is. The older I get the more I find myself returning to the people, places and things that shaped me. Songs “Strawberry Wine,” and “Halloween” are about missing what once was while also wanting to know how to start moving forward. We all look in the rearview mirror from time to time, “The ash of the home that I started the fire in, it starts to return to the Earth” from “Halloween.” We have all wondered what was or what could have been. We will remain haunted by the dawn of a new story when we still blow on the embers of our last chapter. Kahan has openly struggled with depression, this album is a compilation of that healing process. 

Kahan sheds light on the seasonal northern weather, mental health and the New England upbringing. For anyone not from New England, winter evenings are dark by four and the freezing temperatures that start in November don’t help. Each time summertime concludes we all wonder for a moment or two why we chose New England. Once that first blizzard buries us in our homes we can hear ”I’m mean because I grew up in New England” from Kahan’s song “Homesick.” 

 Listening to Stick Season from start to finish feels like empty kicking liquor bottles, driving on a cold night and the subtle warmth from a cabin’s wood fire. Historically those of us from New England have the “cold and straight forward” stereotype slapped on our foreheads from the womb. “Forgive my northern attitude, I was raised on little light” from his song “Northern Attitude,” nails the traditional interpretation of northern folks on the head. Maybe from now on I can blame my impatience and morning grumpies on the fact that I was raised with less sunshine. This line hits home with anyone who understands what it was like to wake up in the dark, and then walk home from school alongside the afternoon sunset. 

New England is a physical rendition of Stick Season. As the year begins we start in January covered by a blanket of heavy snow, we stay still completely frozen and quiet. Eventually we spring forward into rainy days and green sprouts, looking forward to warmer weather and blossoming flowers. Summer arrives and we take off another layer as we bask in the sun and lay by the oceans. Enjoying the ever changing sea breezes and sunny skies before fall rolls in and the forests are set ablaze by every shade of warmth. Stick season creeps around the corner, peeling the warmth away day by day. Soon forests become barren and their naked landscapes flaunt the cold blue horizons. Much like Kahan’s album we see a variety of tonality and emotional weight. “She Calls Me Back” and “New Perspective” feel semi upbeat like a comeback song, although they are more about codependency and toxic attachments that we seek freedom from but do not genuinely want to be freed from. Haunted by their heartbeats we seek to smile back while we can sing along to these two tracks. Others such as “Orange Juice” and “Come Over” tug at our heartstrings a bit more. Both feel written from the perspective of a younger Kahan struggling to carry on. We hear about financial stress, addiction, anxieties and loneliness. All things many of us have suffered, sometimes companionship, friendships and relationships can take all of this away with just a moment of company. 

“The View Between Villages” concludes the album with muted positivity and a passion to survive anyways. We feel the final notes of the album as it takes on a more hopeful tone. No longer scared to die, instead dreaming again of the future and the happiness that waits ahead for all of us. We feel homesickness even while being home, we get stuck in darkness even when it feels safe. Whether moving between villages or staying still, life is worth living and Noah Kahan reminded Boston why. 

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