Review: Noah Kahan invokes the season of sticks and nostalgia

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This image released by Mercury Records/Republic Records shows the cover of Noah Kahan’s “Stick Season” album. (Mercury Records/Republic Records via AP)

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Noah Kahan, “Stick Season” (Mercury Records/Republic Records)

It’s stick season. It’s been since July 8, when Noah Kahan released the first single and title track from his third album, “Stick Season.”

A cascade of controlled reflections on a changing relationship, the track sees Kahan likening his emotions to a pre-winter Vermont – when the leaves have fallen but the snow hasn’t settled, leaving the tree branches just The sticks. The lyrics are precise – “I’ll dream every night of a version of you / That I might not have but I didn’t lose” – and emotional – “Once called me forever now you don’t still can’t remember” – marrying honesty and relatability with ease.

The clips Kahan posted of the song on TikTok have garnered millions of views and the covers he shared have gained hundreds of thousands more, a testament to the accessibility of his words. when listeners adapted them to their own stories or continued his. And while we’re not quite there yet — in batting season, that is — the track foreshadows more than one time of year. It was clear that Kahan, an experienced songwriter and performer with several tours behind him, would take his lyricism to the next level on the album.

There is a newfound maturity in his tone, a musical confidence that shines as he explores his vulnerabilities and doubts while showing his growth.

Kahan’s relationship to his New England upbringing inspires content and sound. It’s immediately clear on the album’s opener “Northern Attitude,” an unapologetic ode to the region with a pinched riff that transitions into a catchy, layered composition. The same idea emerges even stronger on the hard-hitting “Homesick”, where he belts with pride: “I’m mean because I grew up in New England”, and on the softer, almost conversational “Still”.

“She Calls Me Back” stands out, perhaps because you can almost hear a smile emerge as he sings, a break from an otherwise rather melancholic album. The chorus is almost too good to spoil.

Kahan’s vulnerability centers on “Orange Juice”, about a friend’s sobriety, and “Growing Sideways”, about his own mental health journey. The stories told by these songs make it clear that Kahan – always a friend of folk – is fully at home in the genre.

On the imploring ballad “Come Over”, he whispers, “Someday I’ll be / someone people want.”

There’s irony in that because these songs sound like songs that longtime listeners and new fans alike will want to come back to Kahan — not because they’re produced for stadiums or arenas, but because that they are full of nostalgic melodies that will resonate far beyond New England.

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