Through the phases of change, Noah Kahan casts universal experiences into music like a filmmaker onto a vintage projector. With his uniquely haunting voice and ability to sing straight from the heart, Kahan has raked up over a billion streams worldwide and just received his first Grammy nomination for ‘Best New Artist.’ With three full length albums and a pandemic EP under his belt, it’s clear that despite this early success Noah is just getting started. He’s already got a varied, dedicated fan base and reached even more recently by going viral on TikTok with his hit ‘Dial Drunk.’ He is continuing to prove himself as one to watch, and is quickly becoming unforgettable. For those just getting their introduction to Noah, here’s a list of some of his best tracks.
1. ‘She Calls Me Back’ ft Kacey Musgraves
While the original of ‘SCMB’ was already powerful and strongly emotive, the collaboration with Kacey adds another wistful layer to this portrayal of a relationship ending. Musgraves brings a whole new verse, introducing a haunting second perspective. While it’s unclear how this pairing happened, the running theory is the two met at the 2023 Americana awards. The song is still distinctly Noah, yet as with many of his pairings, this brings more of a polished, heavily produced sound than the more stripped back dynamic which provides the backbone of Stick Season.
2. ‘Stick Season’
‘Stick Season’ is the title track for Noah’s most recent full-length album, both the original and the extended version. The term ‘stick season’ itself is native to those of Vermont according to research, and describes the period of time ‘between Halloween and the first snow.’ While this is incredibly specific, for those aware of its meaning this is an extremely strong piece of lyrical imagery. Noah describes the season as ‘grey’, ‘dreary’ and ‘depressing’ in the track, but the fast-paced instrumentals bring a danceable element to the song despite the words. Curling around the veins of memory against the backdrop of a failed relationship, the blame is on both the subject and their past other half for the situation each have found themselves in. ‘Stick Season’ provides apt references to the time of its creation as well in the lyrics, particularly with ‘Doc is telling me to travel / but there’s Covid on the planes.’
2019’s ‘Mess’ is one of the tracks which first introduced me to Noah (yes, I’ve been here for a while). Marrying soft fingerpicking with a solemn, melancholic undertone, the homesickness and vulnerability is palpable. Noah described the track as one written during a ‘very sad time’ in his life. Becoming famous overnight took a toll on the then quite young singer, and the resulting track is a deeply relatable expression of those mixed feelings.
4. ‘Dial Drunk’
‘Dial Drunk’ brought Noah a whole new legion of fans when the song recently went viral on TikTok. The fast paced bridge is the part which did specifically, which echoes of romantic desperation and centers on the theme of bargaining to have the opportunity to call an ex lover. Written from the perspective of an alcoholic who has just been arrested, Noah’s tone change from one of victimhood to almost manipulating the addressee in those middle lyrics is sharp and palpable. With the online success of ‘Dial Drunk,’ Noah finally also entered his first top 100 position when the song debuted at #43, and earned a remix with Post Malone.
5. ‘Young Blood’
‘Young Blood’ was Noah’s major label debut. Its presence on Busyhead makes it one of the defining early moments of his career. ‘Young Blood’s opening tempo is slow and contemplative, slowly increasing over the course of the song. A fusion of youthful adventure combined with the pressures of adulthood, Noah reflects on this phase of his life, especially in the line ‘a year and no high school parties.’
6. ‘Paul Revere’
For an artist who places so much musical emphasis on exploring his connection to his hometown, Noah’s ‘Paul Revere’ is a decidedly purposeful shift. By exploring the subject’s dissatisfaction with the changes occurring in this small part of the world, they yearn to make a passionate escape. Despite the melancholic beginning, the song eventually concludes with the understanding that it is possible to move forward with a new life. Like the rest of Stick Season, ‘Paul Revere’ is extremely folk-centric, and once again a highly relatable track.
7. ‘Call Your Mom’
‘Call Your Mom’ is a deeply personal track to me. Highly emotive and even more powerful, ‘Call Your Mom’ is an ode to those living in the throes of dark mental health. Noah begs the listener to take time to think, not give up, and fight to stay alive. Lots of fans have since received tattoos based on the lyrics, especially the poignant ‘all lights turned off can be turned on.’ Noah sings on this track in a way that only someone who has experienced loss personally can, as he details in the chorus the lengths he would go to to save his loved one. This one also picked up on TikTok and it’s not hard to see why. It’s worth noting ‘Call Your Mom’ has also recently shifted back into the spotlight with the addition of fellow folk-pop singer Lizzy McAlpine.
8. ‘False Confidence’
Exploring the lingering pain of a failed relationship, despite the thematics ‘False Confidence’ comes across as a wildly upbeat track if one only considers the instrumentals. By encouraging the importance of being yourself even in tough circumstances, Noah emphasises this message to fans. The music video is also very literal, with Noah standing in front of a mirror in different outfits. It’s almost reminiscent of someone performing at open mic nights. The mirror represents one’s inner self compared to the persona we put on for others. By using these universal themes, it’s clear why Noah has such a dedicated audience – he is capable of connecting profoundly with listeners on an emotional level.
‘Maine’ is one of Noah’s clearer storytelling arcs, picking up from the story told in ‘Glue Myself Shut.’ Exploring the feelings a couple goes through after finally closing the door on their relationship, Noah sings about how they wish they could go back to that simpler time of being together. Written over multiple years, ‘Maine’ is slow, heart wrenching and cleverly woven.
10. ‘New Perspective’
Above all, Noah Kahan’s primary musical theme is about growing up in his hometown. ‘New Perspective’ therefore is no different. Noah questions whether what is ‘new’, such as the recently built Target, is better than the ‘old’, and notes the changes he’s experiencing with a raw skepticism in this song. Starting off quietly and building as the song goes on, the song is reflective of how the world continues around us regardless of what we experience, and eventually we have to try to catch up with the clock.