“Stick Season” gets even better

Noah Kahan with his dog in a field. Kahan took a folky, Lumineers-esque sound on his newest album. // Photo courtesy of Patrick McCormack

On Feb. 9, Noah Kahan released the album “Stick Season (Forever),” the final piece of his “Stick Season” saga. “Stick Season” has propelled Kahan to incredible levels of success in the last year and a half, including performing on “Saturday Night Live,” a nomination for Best New Artist at the Grammys and countless sold-out tour dates at venues such as Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park.

However, Kahan’s journey to indie folk superstardom has not been linear. He signed to Republic Records when he was still in high school, and his first song, “Young Blood,” came out in 2017. Two years later, he released his debut album “Busyhead” and gained recognition for the lead single “False Confidence.” He went on to release the beautiful EP “Cape Elizabeth” in 2020 as well as his second album entitled “I Was / I Am” in 2021.

Unfortunately, Kahan had not yet reached the audience scope he wanted and was unhappy with the generic pop-rock genre that defined his career up until that point. He explained to Spin Magazine, “I loved music, and I did not want to feel this way about it. Since I love it so much, I was willing to quit, so I didn’t have to f***ing hate it.”

While quarantining in his childhood home in Strafford, Vermont, he began experimenting with folky, Lumineers-esque music. On a whim, he posted a video of a new song to TikTok. The viral hit went on to become “Stick Season,” and it has received 567 million streams on Spotify, and a cover by Olivia Rodrigo.

In 2022, Kahan officially released his third studio album “Stick Season.” The album’s poignant lyrics and unique instrumentation struck listeners all over the world. One TikTok user, @ieabby, gushed, “Every single song is some of the most beautiful poetry I’ve heard… I haven’t felt this strongly about an album in a long time. Thank you.” Another user, @formulawot, jokingly asked, “good sir i had to book therapy right after, can u foot the bill for one session at least?”

“Stick Season” does not shy away from difficult themes. In “Growing Sideways,” Kahan discloses his past struggle with mental health, comparing his emotional numbness to an empty car engine. Additionally, “Orange Juice” discusses Kahan’s relationship with someone who has alcoholism.

At its core, “Stick Season” is about Kahan’s love-hate relationship with his hometown, and it is perfectly reflected in the closing song “The View Between Villages.” He sings, “Past Alger Brook Road, I’m over the bridge / A minute from home, but I feel so far from it / The death of my dog, the stretch of my skin / It’s all washin’ over me, I’m angry again.” Kahan’s lyricism conveys his grappling with the positive and negative memories associated with his childhood home, and his poetic honesty has resonated deeply with listeners.

Following the success of “Stick Season,” Kahan released a deluxe album called “Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever)” in June 2023.

The deluxe album included seven new songs including the radio hit “Dial Drunk,” the college kid anthem “You’re Gonna Go Far” and an extended version of “The View Between Villages.”

These songs caught the attention of many fellow music artists such as Post Malone, Hozier and Gracie Abrams who Kahan invited to put their own spin on his songs. Over the course of seven months, he “assembled the Folk Avengers” and released six collaborations in total. Additionally, Kahan was featured on the song “Sarah’s Place” from Zach Bryan’s EP “Boys of Faith.”

After months of releasing these collaborations, Kahan announced that his “Stick Season” era would come to an end with “Stick Season (Forever).” The album’s new tracks included a new single called “Forever” and two collaborations, “You’re Gonna Go Far (with Brandi Carlile)” and “Paul Revere (with Gregory Alan Isakov).”

“Forever” marked Kahan’s most successful song debut yet with 2.6 million streams on its release day. Kahan cited Bon Iver as his inspiration for the track, referencing the song’s slow, melancholy intro that flows into an upbeat chorus.

In his Instagram post accompanying the release of “Stick Season (Forever),” Kahan stated, “The word ‘forever’ used to terrify me. I hate finality; there is too much uncertainty and boredom affiliated with ‘the rest of time.’ Now though, I’ve found forever to mean there is limitless possibility. There is so much joy in the world, waiting to be found. That is something that ‘Stick Season’ has shown me, that this year has shown me. Sometimes it just takes a change in perspective.”

The success that Noah Kahan has found following his sonic shift from pop to folk is extraordinary. He has brought a mainstream revival to “granola music,” characterized by early 2010s stomp and holler artists like Mumford and Sons and Hozier.

“Stick Season” may now officially be over, but the album’s legacy on the music industry and in the hearts of fans is “Forever.”